NEW DELHI: Scientists at India’s top health research bodies and health experts have said holding newspapers in your hands is safe, and there is no evidence of them or other types of paper being carriers of Covid-19 infection.
Over the past week, there have been WhatsApp messages and forwards — stating that newspapers can be avenues of infection. But this has been roundly refuted by health experts and doctors.
Nivedita Gupta, chief epidemiologist at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), told ET that Covid-19 is a “respiratory infection” and there is “no risk” of catching it through newspapers and packages.
Sujeet Singh, director of National Centre for Disease Control, said NCDC’s helpline number has been working round the clock to refute such rumours. “Investigating virologists have not found any evidence that suggests that it can survive on paper. We are getting these queries on everyday basis and clarifying them,” he said.
Renowned heart surgeon Devi Shetty ruled out the likelihood of the virus lingering in the air for hours — the characteristic that makes measles infectious.
“The virus cannot sustain for longer periods. Right now there is no evidence that the virus can survive on surfaces, for that mutation should happen. It will take a long time and will require infection getting spread to huge number of people,” he said, rubbishing rumours that the virus can be spread through newspapers.
Experts said Covid-19 spreads from person to person among close contacts and, as of now, there is no evidence that suggests the virus is airborne and hence may be infecting surfaces. Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia said, “Airborne spread has not been reported for Covid-19. Based on the information received so far and on our experience with other coronaviruses, Covid-19 appears to spread mostly through respiratory droplets (for instance produced when a sick person coughs) and close contact. This is why WHO recommends maintaining hand and respiratory hygiene”.
Dr Randeep Guleria, Director, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) said the possibility of an infected person contaminating commercial goods and infection risk from a package that has travelled from one place to another, is low. “Survivabiity of the virus on cardboard surfaces is quite low as compared to metal or steel; hence there is no chance of virus being spread through newspapers,” he said.
The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention also claims that it is highly unlikely that Coronavirus could spread through newspaper delivery. “These are rumours, that’s all I can say,” cardiac surgeon Naresh Trehan said.