WHO begrudgingly includes aerosol transmission in new Covid FAQ
Share article:
Share article:

WHO begrudgingly includes aerosol transmission in new Covid FAQ

Photo shows the difference between large dropleyts which sink to the ground and smaller aerosol droplets which remain in the air.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has published a new version of its list of frequently asked questions (FAQ) on the subject of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The FAQ is interesting in that it includes a question on aerosol transmission of the virus, a topic it had previously dismissed as unproven. But while it does discuss the matter briefly, the organisation seems not to give it the credence many scientists now consider it merits.

The FAQ explains the main vectors of transmission of the virus as “direct, indirect (through contaminated objects or surfaces), or close contact with infected people via mouth and nose secretions”.

It goes on to explain that the secretions in question “are released from the mouth or nose when an infected person coughs, sneezes, speaks or sings”. And it advises to maintain a distance of at least one metre to avoid being infected by the secretions.

However not only is that recommended distance considerably less than the social distancing advice in use in Belgium and many other countries (Belgium 1.5m, the UK six feet or almost 2m). In addition, the advice relegates the question of aerosol transmission to a place lower down the list of questions.

In recent days, scientists on the ground have been stressing the importance of aerosol transmission of the virus for prevention of the spread of Covid-19. A group of 239 doctors recently sent a letter to the WHO asking them to review their advice on aerosol transmission.

Aerosol transmission involves secretions in particles much smaller than those released when a person coughs or sneezes. These particles are produced by speaking loudly, singing or even breathing heavily, after exertion for instance. Because of their size, they are suspended in the air for longer than normal droplet secretions, and can be moved around by air currents.

The importance of recognising the dangers of aerosol transmission lies in the fact that it does not respect social distancing, being able to travel farther than one metre. In addition, someone who is not coughing or sneezing can still produce aerosol droplets, making the use of face masks more important.

The WHO has previously dismissed the arguments on aerosol transmission as being based on lab experiments not relevant to real-life conditions. However the evidence produced by the 239 doctors relied on evidence from infections in a Chinese restaurant and during a choir rehearsal.

When the FAQ does get around to mentioning aerosols, it reverts to its position of insisting the phenomenon is restricted to “some medical procedures” carried out by medical staff in health facilities. The evidence of aerosol transmission in everyday life situations “cannot be ruled out,” the organisation says, while seemingly doing just that.

More studies are urgently needed to investigate such instances and assess their significance for transmission of Covid-19,” the FAQ concludes.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

Latest news

Arrival of Dutch company will double the number of rental mopeds in Brussels
The arrival of 500 new e-mopeds from Dutch rental company GO Sharing will double the amount of rental mopeds in Brussels. While sometimes also ...
More than 1,300 Covid-19 patients in Belgian hospitals
More than 1,300 people are in hospital as a result of coronavirus infections, as the number of new cases continues to rise in Belgium. Between ...
Masks reintroduced indoors, teleworking encouraged
Masks will again be mandatory inside shops and other indoor public spaces, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced in a press conference on ...
Belgium intends to activate the pandemic law, says Health Minister
"We intend to activate the pandemic law," Public Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke confirmed on Tuesday in the House committee, ahead of Tuesday's ...
Offers for fake Covid Safe Tickets circulating on social media
As the Covid Safe Ticket (CST) becomes mandatory in many places across Belgium, offers for forgeries are increasingly circulating on social media. ...
EU auditors: More worried about the future budget than about pervasive errors in the 2020 budget
The European Court of Auditors (ECA) have signed off the 2020 EU accounts as giving a true and fair view of the union’s financial position but like ...
Belgium aims to tackle sexual violence with video interrogations
The federal government is looking to tackle sexual violence and increase convictions connected to this crime by relying more heavily on video ...
Duvel celebrates 150th anniversary with special brew in commemorative bottle
Belgium’s Duvel Moortgat Brewery is celebrating its 150th anniversary with the release of a special brew in a commemorative bottle shaped like its ...
Pollution scandal: 3M to show emissions don’t pose risk or halt production
Flanders has ordered American company 3M, involved in a pollution scandal in Antwerp, to prove that emissions linked to its production activities do ...
The Netherlands fears a greater rise in sea levels than forecast
Sea levels could rise by up to two metres by 2100 on the Dutch coastline – far more than previously forecast – according to an announcement from the ...
The Smurfs return to Belgian TV with the first new show since 1989
A new Smurfs show is bringing the characters of Belgium's second-most-famous comic franchise back to the small screen with their first new series, 30 ...
On this day in Brussels: An entrepreneurial journey begins
The Rue Dansaert was just beginning to become trendy when Alain Coumont opened his first bakery here on 26 October 1990. He started by baking big ...