Airborne transmission of COVID-19 possible, says PTF
The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 (PTF) on Monday said that airborne transmission of COVID-19 is possible, even as new evidence has shown.
The taskforce urged Nigerians to absolutely wear a face mask and adhere to other non-pharmaceutical protocols like avoiding mass gatherings, practicing social distancing and maintaining hand hygiene by washing of hands.
Speaking during the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 briefing in Abuja, the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said: “Over the past few weeks, increasing evidence has emerged that in addition to droplet infection we cannot rule out that airborne transmission is also possible as a mode of transmission of covid-19.
“The World Health Organization (WHO) has updated its guidelines on this saying exactly the same thing – that we cannot rule out airborne transmission. Therefore, we have to act in a precautionary way assuming that this is also possible given the new evidence that is emerging.
“Understanding the mode of transmission of any new virus is very critical for defining response strategies. For Covid-19, from the very beginning, our understanding based on all the coronavirus that was spread, was primarily through droplets and excretions from the respiratory tract that can’t stay on in air, and they ultimately fall to the ground after a few minutes.
“However, as we have studied transmissions and clusters of these infections, we saw increasing evidence from clusters of infections where droplet transmission did not seem to be enough to explain the clusters that we are seeing.
“Diseases that are commonly understood to be spread by what we call airborne infection are things like measles, influenza, etc., that can be suspended in the air and transmitted over longer distances.
“The new research does not change our guidelines, but only strengthens them as they stand.”
Ihekweazu added, “This means that staying together in closed spaces and clusters such as in restaurants and in small rooms with very poor ventilation increases the risk of transmission. Indoor activities are riskier than outdoors activities especially when there are many people in the room when we don’t adhere to distancing them and when we don’t wear masks.
“This means that we have to with a louder voice of the things that we have been saying already; that we have to even strengthen further the avoidance of mass gatherings or gatherings of any nature in small spaces.
“Once you exceed the normal level of what is possible in a room, especially in a room with poor ventilation, then, there are already too many people in that room. So, we have to pay attention to ventilation, distancing, stay outside as preferred to inside, continue to wash our hands and absolutely wear a mask whenever we are outside our homes.”
The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, added: “I emphasize again that conscientious wearing of masks is being confirmed in various studies, as the easiest, cheapest and most reliable way to check the rate of spread.
“Some countries have made it mandatory by law and imposed a fine for non-compliance. Regular washing of hands, avoiding crowds, social distancing and use of minimum of 65 percent alcohol based sanitizers remain as relevant as at the beginning.”