The World Health Organisation on Tuesday (7th July 2020) have acknowledged "emerging evidence" of the airborne spread of the novel coronavirus. This statement comes after a group of scientists urged the WHO to update its guidelines as to how the disease is passed between people. "We have been talking about the possibility of airborne transmission and aerosol transmission as one of the modes of transmission of COVID-19," Maria Van Karhove, epidemiologist and technical lead on the COVID-19 pandemic at the WHO, stated at a news briefing.
The WHO had previously said that the virus that causes COVID-19 spreads primarily through small droplets expelled through the nose and mouth of an infected person, and these quickly sink to the ground. On Monday (6th July 2020) 239 scientists in 32 countries published an open letter in the Clinical Infectious Diseases journal providing evidence that they claim shows that floating virus particles can infect people who breathe them in. And because these smaller exhaled particles can linger in the air, these scientists are urging WHO to update its guideline.
Speaking at Tuesday's briefing in Geneva, Benedetta Allegranzi, the WHO's technical lead for infection prevention and control, said there was evidence emerging of airborne transmission of the coronavirus, but that it was not definitive."...The possibility of airborne transmission in public settings — especially in very specific conditions, crowded, closed, poorly ventilated settings that have been described, cannot be ruled out," she said. "However, the evidence needs to be gathered and interpreted, and we continue to support this."
If the WHO were to change it's risk of transmission guidelines, it could affect its current advisory on keeping a 1-metre physical distance. Goverments worldwide may also have to adjust public health guidelines and measures taken to curb the spread of the virus. Maria Van Kerkhove stated that the WHO would publish a scientific brief summarising the state of knowledge on modes of transmission of the virus in the coming days.