Recently, the World Health Organisation stated that the spread of COVID-19 may be airborne. This statement has come as a shock to many, but the mounting evidence in favour of this conclusion cannot be ignored. 

Source: Reuters

For now, we were advised to keep a distance of 1.5 metres because we knew that the virus spreads via large droplets. These large droplets fall on the floor due to gravity, which is why we clean surfaces and wash our hands. This, however, has changed. 

An official told BBC that airborne transmission could not be ruled out in crowded, closed or poorly ventilated settings.

Source: Reuters

But what is airborne transmission? 

To break it down, airborne transmission refers to the ability of the virus to stay in air via droplets small enough to be suspended, instead of falling to the ground. These droplets are generally smaller than 5 micro metres in size and are called aerosols. They can be transmitted via talking, stay suspended in air and can travel further. 

Source: Livemint / PTI

What happens if the virus is confirmed to be airborne? 

- If airborne, then the virus can be transmitted without any close contact. 

- It could travel through air currents and spread through air conditioning. 
- Social distancing may not be as effective as we expected. 
- Congested areas with poor or no ventilation may be breading grounds for the virus. 
- This could mean that public transport, bars, restaurants and other crowded spaces will require more intensive social distancing. 

Source: Aljazeera / Reuters - Kim Hong-ji

However, the WHO has cautioned that this evidence is only preliminary and further assessment will take place. According to their statement on 7 July, WHO said that it will issue new guidelines about transmission in settings with close contact and poor ventilation once the research is complete.