Novel human coronavirus with scientific name SARS-CoV-2, can remain on surfaces and in the air for many hours, according to a New England Journal of Medicine article released earlier this week.
The article compared how long novel coronavirus compared to its sister SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus) can last on surfaces. The results from the article suggest that aerosol and surface transmission is plausible. Given this recent article and other estimates, coronavirus could remain on surfaces for days at a time.
As companies make the decision on how to operate during the global pandemic, knowledge on a surface transmission is important. Geopoll released a survey of 400 Nigerians on 17 March suggesting that only 18% of respondents believe that coronavirus can be transmitted on surfaces, while 37% believed it can be transmitted by air. If companies are remaining open, steps should be taken to build staff awareness about how coronavirus is transmitted, and to ensure that the surfaces are being regularly disinfected. In Nigeria, this means cleaning with Sapele water or antiseptic wipes / Chlorox, ATMs, POS machines, doorknobs, buttons in lifts, handrails, etc.
Beyond the policies around social distancing and work (sick employees should not come to the office, for example) that have been generally recommended, the World Health Organization (WHO) and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) recommend encouraging respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene – regular handwashing with soap and water, coughing into a tissue and disposing it, etc. and recommend routine environmental cleaning. In places where there is no access to water, hand sanitizer – with at least 60-95% alcohol – should be used often. Please consult the detailed World Health Organization guidance for schools, workplaces, and institutions and the NCDC guidelines for schools, and infection prevention and control.
The most vulnerable workers are likely in those industries at the front lines – healthcare workers and first responders, those in service and retail industries, where they are significant proximity to others, and those in informal industries who cannot afford to work from home. The US data from The New York Times looked at potential risk given labour statistics and likelihood of infection. In Nigeria, we must also consider public transportation and other potentially high-traffic locations that employees visit on the way to and from work as we respond to the pandemic.