WHO: Indoor airborne spread of coronavirus possible

The WHO is acknowledging the possibility that COVID-19 might be spread in the air under certain conditions. (File/AP)
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Updated 09 July 2020

WHO: Indoor airborne spread of coronavirus possible

  • WHO has long dismissed the possibility that the coronavirus is spread in the air
  • In a change to previous thinking, the WHO noted that studies evaluating COVID-19 outbreaks suggested the virus might have been spread in the air

LONDON: The World Health Organization is acknowledging the possibility that COVID-19 might be spread in the air under certain conditions — after more than 200 scientists urged the agency to do so.
In an open letter published this week in a journal, two scientists from Australia and the US wrote that studies have shown “beyond any reasonable doubt that viruses are released during exhalation, talking and coughing in microdroplets small enough to remain aloft in the air.”
The researchers, along with more than 200 others, appealed for national and international authorities, including WHO, to adopt more stringent protective measures.
WHO has long dismissed the possibility that the coronavirus is spread in the air except for certain risky medical procedures, such as when patients are first put on breathing machines.
In a change to its previous thinking, WHO noted on Thursday that studies evaluating COVID-19 outbreaks in restaurants, choir practices and fitness classes suggested the virus might have been spread in the air.
Airborne spread “particularly in specific indoor locations, such as crowded and inadequately ventilated spaces over a prolonged period of time with infected persons cannot be ruled out,” WHO said.
Still, officials also pointed out that other modes of transmission — like contaminated surfaces or close contacts between people in such indoor environments — might also have explained the disease’s spread.
WHO’s stance also recognized the importance of people spreading COVID-19 without symptoms, a phenomenon the organization has long downplayed.
WHO has repeatedly said such transmission is “rare” despite a growing consensus among scientists globally that asymptomatic spread likely accounts for a significant amount of transmission. The agency said that most spread is via droplets from infected people who cough or sneeze, but added that people without symptoms are also capable of transmitting the disease.
“The extent of truly asymptomatic infection in the community remains unknown,” WHO said.


French PM pays homage to aid workers killed in Niger

Updated 4 min 19 sec ago

French PM pays homage to aid workers killed in Niger

  • PM Jean Castex sought to assure the parents of the four women and two men that all of France mourned their passing
  • The six, their Nigierien guide and driver, were killed on Sunday in a wildlife haven about an hour’s drive southeast of Niamey

PARIS: France’s prime minister led a memorial service Friday for six aid workers killed in Niger in what investigators said had likely been a premeditated attack targeting Westerners.
As the six caskets lay side by side in the VIP section of Orly Airport south of Paris, where the bodies arrived Friday from Niamey, Jean Castex sought to assure the parents of the four women and two men that all of France mourned their passing.
“In front of these six coffins... I want first of all to express the pain, the incomprehension, the anger of all French people,” said the premier as he saluted the youngsters’ generosity and altruism.
“The victims of this attack came to Niger to do good. They met with evil.”
The six, their Nigierien guide and driver, were killed on Sunday in a wildlife haven about an hour’s drive southeast of Niamey.
The area is a popular a destination for weekend leisure trips by Niamey residents, including foreigners.
They worked for French NGO Acted and were aged between 25 and 30.
“This incarnation of evil, France unfortunately knows it only too well... it is very likely the same hatred, the same cowardice, the same inhumanity at work in Niger and Bataclan,” the Parisian concert venue targeted by extremists in 2015, said Castex.
And he stressed there was “no question of giving an inch of ground to criminal fanaticism or to enemies of the freedom to act, think and engage.”
Earlier, a source close to an ongoing investigation by French anti-terror prosecutors told AFP the attack “appears to have been premeditated to target a priori mainly Westerners.”
France’s anti-terror prosecutor’s office said Monday it would probe charges of murder “with links to a terrorist enterprise” and “criminal terrorist association” in relation to the killings.
A team of 11 specialized investigators departed France for Niger the following day.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack carried out by gunmen on motorcycles.
But “given the modus operandi, the terrorist hypothesis is being favored,” the source told AFP.
Suspicion has fallen on Daesh in the Great Sahara, active in the shared border region of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, where it is being pursued by France’s Barkhane force fighting extremists in the Sahel.
The French investigation will seek to determine whether the assailants had been tipped off about the humanitarians’ visit to the national park.
French President Emmanuel Macron has described it as “manifestly a terrorist attack” and said there would be repercussions.
“We’re pursuing action to eradicate the terrorist groups, with the strengthened support of our partners,” Macron said.