Coronavirus outbreak: Impact on Singapore

Virus may survive on surfaces from a few hours to three days

A man wearing a surgical mask uses a mobile phone at the Tuas View dormitory in Singapore, on Feb 6, 2020.
A man wearing a surgical mask uses a mobile phone at the Tuas View dormitory in Singapore, on Feb 6, 2020.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

The coronavirus can survive on the surfaces of different materials for two to three days.

Infectious disease expert Leong Hoe Nam said studies done on the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) virus showed it could survive in the environment for this duration.

But it is not clear how long the coronavirus, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, can do so.

"We are still waiting for data on the survival of the novel coronavirus," Dr Leong said.

It is possible that the virus would not survive for more than two to three days outside the body in a warm, humid environment like in Singapore, he added.

This is so as coronaviruses are thought to be spread mostly by respiratory droplets.

The respiratory secretions protect the virus. It is believed the virus will die when the droplets land on a surface and then dry up after some time, depending on the type of surface, said Dr Leong.

If the droplets land on a surface that is directly under the sun, they could potentially dry up in a matter of hours, he said.

Associate Professor Hsu Li Yang, programme leader for infectious diseases at the National University of Singapore's Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, also said that it is not clear how well the coronavirus survives on surfaces.

 
 
 

"Other coronaviruses have been tested in laboratory settings and, in general, they survive better at lower temperatures and lower relative humidity than at higher temperatures and higher relative humidity," he added.

Prof Hsu said the key to minimising infection risks is to wash hands properly and regularly, that is, before eating, after going to the toilet and if hands are dirty.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 07, 2020, with the headline 'Virus may survive on surfaces from a few hours to three days'. Print Edition | Subscribe