Researchers at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia's national science agency, claimed that that SARS-CoV-2 can remain infectious on surfaces for long periods of time as it can survive for up to 28 days on common surfaces including bank notes, glass such as that found on mobile phone screens and stainless steel.
Stressing that there are loopholes in this study, Dr Richa Sareen, Consultant- Pulmonology, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at Fortis Hospital Vasant Kunj, Delhi, said that the research was carried out in the dark, with stable temperature (20 degree) and humidity.
"These are virus friendly conditions and do not simulate the actual temperature and humidity variations. Earlier studies had documented the presence of virus on bank notes for up to two-three days and glass and steel for six-seven days, which seems more acceptable," Sareen told IANS.
Another important point to remember here, she said, is that fomites (inanimate objects) are not the main source of spread of Covid-19 infection.
"It is primarily spread by aerosols, droplets and personal contact".
The research, undertaken at the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness (ACDP) in Geelong, found that SARS-CoV-2 survived longer at lower temperatures and tended to survive longer on non-porous or smooth surfaces, compared to porous complex surfaces such as cotton.
Dr Suranjit Chatterjee, senior consultant for internal medicine at Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, said that coronavirus is transmitted mostly through direct contact with an infected person, especially the virus-laden particles they emit while coughing, sneezing, speaking, singing and even breathing.
"The direct contact with the infected person remains the major source of spreading the virus. The findings did not necessarily reflect the potential to pick up the virus from casual contact, as the presence of the virus in the study was detected by laboratory tools, not fingers and hands as would be the case in everyday life," Chatterjee elaborated.
"Such findings are minor causes for the spread of the virus and can potentially create paranoia among the people," he warned.
However, money changes hands frequently and can pick up all sorts of bacteria and viruses and things like that.
It is advised to wash hands after handling bank notes, and avoid touching the face.
"When possible it's a good idea to use contactless payments. If you want to protect yourself just maintain the basic principles of wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing, washing hands and maintaining coughing and sneezing etiquette," Chatterjee told IANS.
The researchers of the Australian study argued that 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".
According to Dr Naveen Aggarwal, Head and Senior Consultant, Pathologist, Action Cancer Hospital, favourable surroundings and weather are the prime conditions of any virus' survival or growth.
"In winters, coronavirus can survive more on paper and can contribute significantly in transmission especially in a country like India. Hence referring to this problem, digital transactions and paperless work are the key," Aggarwal said.