COVID-19 transmission from print surfaces: What the leading health organizations say?

With the fast-moving novel coronavirus, the myths are also being circulated at a rapid rate. According to the leading doctors and scientists across the globe, no positive case of coronavirus has been confirmed where the novel virus transmitted from a print newspaper, print magazine, print letter or print package.
Updated: Jul 2, 2020 16:04 IST

Coronavirus or COVID-19 which was first identified in Wuhan, China is now a global pandemic. According to WHO, the deadly virus has so far infected 334,981 people globally and has claimed 14,652 lives (at the time of writing this article). With the fast-moving novel coronavirus, the myths are also being circulated at a rapid rate. Therefore, to debunk these myths INMA published a report based on scientific research. This report is based on the transmission of coronavirus notably from newsprint and other paper products.

According to the leading doctors and scientists across the globe, no positive case of coronavirus has been confirmed where the novel virus transmitted from a print newspaper, print magazine, print letter or print package.

Scientific research on the transmission of coronavirus

As soon as the novel coronavirus has become pandemic globally, there’s a paranoia about everything that is touched. To debunk the myths related to surface-based transmission, let’s have a look at what the leading health organizations have to offer:  

1- The World Health Organization (WHO) states that the likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperate is also low. 

2- The U.S. Centres for Disease Control (CDC) states that it may be possible for a person to get COVID-19 by touching a surface that has the virus on it but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

3- According to Hartford Healthcare, people need not worry about deliveries to their houses as coronaviruses don’t last long on objects.

4- Scientists from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), UCLA, and Princeton University concluded a study showing the varying stability of the novel coronavirus on different surfaces. Across aerosols, plastic, stainless steel, copper, and cardboard, the lowest levels of coronavirus transmission possibilities were via copper because of its atomic makeup and cardboard - presumably because of its porous nature. 

5- John Innes Centre’s Virologist George Lomonossoff, debunked the idea of transmission through newsprint. He stated that newspapers are pretty sterile because of the way they are printed and the process they’ve been through. Traditionally, people have eaten fish and chips out of them for that very reason. So all of the ink and the print makes them actually quite sterile. The chances of that are infinitesimal. 

According to the report published by INMA, the researchers duplicated the droplets and measured their life span on the surfaces. It was noted that the deadly virus lasted longer on smooth, non-porous surfaces. The virus’ on plastic and stainless steel were viable even after three days. However, researchers have also stated that the virus’ strength declines rapidly when exposed to air and it loses half of its potency after every 66 minutes. This means that if a virus has landed on a surface, it is one-eight infectious after three hours and it is only two per cent infectious after six hours.  

When tested on the cardboard, it was found out that the virus was not viable after 24 hours on the cardboard. For newsprint, which is more porous compared to cardboard, it is presumed that the virus viability is even shorter. 

How publishers are dealing and communicating?  

The news publishers are taking extra steps to ensure that the newspapers are not touched by any unprotected hands until the product reaches the customer. Certain measures that are taken by the news publishers are listed below: 

1- Home delivery: The home delivery staff is provided with the hand sanitizer and wipes and are directed to leave the newspapers outside the buildings.  

2- Single-copy distributors: The publishers are also providing gloves, masks and sanitizers to newsstands, distributors and street sellers to ensure the protection of its workers from the deadly virus. 

3- Print process: According to an attachment in the print edition of The Wall Street Journal, the paper production process is mostly automated and therefore the risk is low. However, in spite of the attachments reassuring the customers about the non-transmission via print, the print subscriptions are cancelled. 

4- The digital replica: Publishers are emphasising their digital replica services for those who are still worried about newsprint, as a caution. 

5- Plastic to the rescue: Many publishers have reduced usage of plastic in recent years but in some markets, plastic poly bagging might be a necessary measure to ensure good quality home delivery. However, there is no example at the time of writing this article about the plastic carrying the virus. 

After going through all the scientific evidence which suggests that the porous paper surfaces, including newsprint, carries the lowest potency, it can be concluded that there has never been a reported positive case of COVID-19 transmitted via newsprint. The scientific researchers have suggested that porus surfaces carry the lowest potency for the shortest period of time on virus transmission to the inanimate surfaces. Due to the ink and printing process, newspapers are even more sterile and publishers are taking necessary precautions at publishing plants, newsstands, distribution centres and home delivery. 

Disclaimer: These are meant as talking points distributed to media company staff in view of the customer inquiries arising from the concerns surrounding COVID-19. Jagran New Media does not advocate or endorse these as expert recommendations to be accepted as conclusive scientific evidence. 

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