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Research shows coronavirus survives on phone screen for 28 days but don't panic yet

A new research report says that Coronavirus can survive on a phone's screen for 28 days. While that sounds alarming, this bit about survivability of coronavirus is also a little complicated.

twitter-logoIndia Today Tech | October 12, 2020 | Updated 15:26 IST

Highlights

  • Coronavirus can survive on a phone’s screen for 28 days.
  • The COVID-19 virus is tougher than the flu virus that can only survive for 17 days.
  • Environmental factors also play a role in how long coronavirus lives.

Experiments conducted by Australian scientists have revealed that the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is tougher than some other viruses, including flu virus. The scientists have found that coronavirus can survive on common surfaces, including glass layers on smartphone screens, for up to 28 days. This is 11 days more than what flu virus can manage.

"These findings demonstrate SARS-CoV-2 can remain infectious for significantly longer time periods than generally considered possible. These results could be used to inform improved risk mitigation procedures to prevent the fomite spread of COVID-19," the scientists said in their paper.

Now before you throw your phone into bleach, let's go beyond the headlines. In the same paper, the Australian scientists also talked of the conditions that let the coronavirus go on for 28 days even if it is outside a host.

The 28-day life of the SARS-CoV-2 is under ideal conditions. This doesn't mean that the coronavirus stuck to a phone's screen or frame is not a real threat, because it is a threat. But it only means that you should not panic yet.

The scientists found that the coronavirus survives 28-days in a lab, with conditions controlled, environment dark and temperature set at 20 degrees.

"All experiments were carried out in the dark, to negate any effects of UV light. Inoculated surfaces were incubated at 20 degrees Celsius, 30 degrees Celsius and 40 degrees Celsius and sampled at various time points," the scientists wrote.

Then they explained: "With initial viral loads broadly equivalent to the highest titres excreted by infectious patients, viable virus was isolated for up to 28 days at 20 degrees Celsius from common surfaces such as glass, stainless steel and both paper and polymer banknotes. Conversely, infectious virus survived less than 24 hours at 40 degrees Celsius on some surfaces."

So some key takeaways:

-- Coronavirus can cling to phones and can spread if people touch phones touched by COVID-19 patients.

-- In ideal conditions, coronavirus can survive for up to 28 days on a phone's glass screen.

-- In conditions where there is UV radiation basically daylight the coronavirus cannot last that long.

-- In direct sunlight, the coronavirus probably will not be able to last for more than a few hours on a phone's screen. This is particularly so because in direct sunlight, the phone's screen also heats up.

-- In higher temperature and most places in India are warmer than 20 degrees Celsius most of the time coronavirus cannot survive for 28 days.

-- These real-world conditions, which include UV radiation, heat, airflow etc, have earlier led researchers to conclude that the main source of coronavirus infection are droplets that COVID-19 infected people, symptomatic or asymptotic, spread when they cough or talk. Surfaces like the phone's screen are not the drivers of the COVID-19 infections.

-- Finally, in case you are worried about catching coronavirus by touching your phone, be careful not to place the phone in public areas, for example on a restaurant table in case you are going to eat out. And if you have gone out, after coming home, just like you wash hands, may be also give the phone a wipe with an alcohol-based cleaner.

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