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Scientists at Australia’s national science agency have found that the novel coronavirus can stay active on surfaces such as cell phones and smooth countertops for up to 28 days, far longer than the common flu virus.

Tests also found that the virus could remain on cotton surfaces, like masks and clothing, for several days, as well.

According to the study:

SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, can survive for up to 28 days on common surfaces including banknotes, glass – such as that found on mobile phone screens – and stainless steel.

The research, undertaken at the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness (ACDP) in Geelong, found that SARS-CoV-2:

  • survived longer at lower temperatures
  • tended to survive longer on non-porous or smooth surfaces such as glass, stainless steel and vinyl, compared to porous complex surfaces such as cotton
  • survived longer on paper banknotes than plastic banknotes.

Results from the study The effect of temperature on persistence of SARS-CoV-2 on common surfaces  are published in Virology Journal.

To determine how long the virus could remain active outside of a living host, scientists placed droplets of liquid containing SARS-CoV-2 in multiple surfaces at different temperatures ranging from 20-degrees Celsius (68-degrees Fahrenheit, room temperature), up to 40-degrees Celsius (104-degrees F).

This infographic presents the results of our study which investigated how long SARS-CoV-2 survived on six different surfaces at three temperature, 20, 30 and 40 degrees celsius. Courtesy, www.csiro.au

The virus remained active on glass, steel, vinyl, paper, and plastic for “at least 28 days” in room temperature. The virus also remained active on cotton, the most common type of homemade mask, for up to 3-days at elevated room temperature.

“Our results show that SARS-CoV-2 can remain infectious on surfaces for long periods of time, reinforcing the need for good practices such as regular handwashing and cleaning surfaces,” Dr Eagles said.

“At 20 degrees Celsius, which is about room temperature, we found that the virus was extremely robust, surviving for 28 days on smooth surfaces such as glass found on mobile phone screens and plastic banknotes.“ For context, similar experiments for Influenza A have found that it survived on surfaces for 17 days, which highlights just how resilient SARS-CoV-2 is.”

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