Claim: Is life of the corona virus (COVID-19) just 12 hours?

(In public interest)

Despite repeated pleas from public health experts not to share unverified information during the pandemic, a fake message claims so.

While doctors, nurses, public health professionals and other frontline workers struggle to contain the spread of the coronavirus outbreak in India, complicating their efforts are fake, unverified forwards on WhatsApp. The latest misinformation doing the rounds claims that the ‘Janata Curfew’, a self-imposed 14-hour stay-at-home announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday, would stop the virus spread in one day. Specifically, the fake news wrongly claims that the life of the coronavirus is “only 12 hours” at one place and thus, with a 14-hour curfew in place on Sunday, March 22, India would emerge ‘virus-free’.

Another variant of the same fake message even goes on to prescribe a 24-hour ‘standstill of the nation’ where “the virus lying at all the spots in the country would die within this time before anyone comes in contact with virus spots.”

According to the World Health Organisation, it is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses.

“Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).” says the WHO.

Among the first studies on the subject of how long the virus can last on various surfaces was led by Neeltje van Doremalen, a virologist at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH). The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine on March 17, found that the virus can remain in the air for up to three hours. According to the study, the virus may last longer on other surfaces: up to 24 hours on cardboard surfaces and up to two to three days on plastic and metal surfaces.

Another study in The Journal of Hospital Infection suggests that coronaviruses can remain on inanimate surfaces like metal, glass or plastic for up to nine days.

The WHO recommends cleaning a surface you think is infected with a simple disinfectant to kill the virus in order to protect yourself and others. “Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.” recommends the WHO.