A new study published in The Lancet Microbe has found that the Covid-19 coronavirus can be transmitted through contaminated hands and surfaces in addition to contact with infected individuals and the air. The study recruited Covid-19 patients in London from September 2020 to March 2021 and repeatedly tested the hands of primary cases and their household members, as well as frequently-touched surfaces in communal areas of their homes. The research found that household members were more likely to contract Covid-19 if primary cases had detectable SARS-CoV-2 on their hands or on high-touch surfaces. Notably, in six cases, primary cases did not have detectable SARS-CoV-2 in their upper respiratory tracts, but household members still contracted Covid-19, suggesting that shared surfaces played a role in transmission.
While the findings are not surprising, they do highlight the importance of frequent hand-washing and disinfection of high-touch surfaces to prevent the spread of Covid-19. However, in 2020, the emphasis shifted from disinfecting surfaces to wearing face masks and improving air filtration/purification due to the belief that aerosol transmission was a greater risk than surface transmission. Experts now emphasize the importance of combining interventions to tackle the pandemic, including testing, surveillance, vaccination, face mask use, air filtration/purification, cleaning/disinfection, and treatment.
In the long run, investing in cleaning and disinfection measures, providing hand sanitizer, and promoting regular hand-washing is a worthwhile investment for businesses, schools, and other organizations, as preventing the spread of infectious diseases is crucial for public health and the economy.