You can’t catch Covid from cardboard! BBC’s health editor Hugh Pym disputes initial advice

Risk of picking up covid from surface is ‘very low’ says expert

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BBC’s health editor Hugh Pym told Andrew Marr this morning that the Government’s initial advice at the beginning of the pandemic crisis was “not right”. He pointed to a story in the this morning that suggests that the real risk of Covid transmission comes “from aerosol transmission – not picking things up off a surface”. Mr Pym suggested that the Government had exaggerated the risk of transmission through surfaces, with warnings to wipe down all surfaces.

Andrew Marr said:: “If there is one thing we all remember from the advice over this pandemic, it is wash your hands, sing happy birthday twice, and be very, very careful of flat surfaces.

“But there is an interesting piece from the Sunday Times science editor that this advice might be wrong!”

The BBC host joked about the constant “scrubbing of Amazon Parcels” across the country.

Mr Pym noted: “Ben Spencer has done an interesting piece about how the advice a year ago was very much about that the virus could linger on surfaces, particularly plastic and stainless steel.”

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He explained: “It was said that it could linger on cardboard for 24 hours.

“But evidence now suggests the risk of picking up the virus from a surface and then getting infected is very, very low.

“The real risk is from aerosol transmission, from travelling in the air, not from picking things up off a surface.”

Marr added that the new findings suggested that the advice was “not right from the beginning”.

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In the article, science editor Ben Spencer noted that the Government’s advice around surfaces went into “overdrive”.

He added: “The theory of surface transmission has influenced government policy ever since.

“When non-essential shops reopened last summer, for example, clothing retailers were told to quarantine returned items for 48 hours before putting them back on display.”


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Last March, at the onset of the pandemic, initial studies found that the virus that causes COVID-19 could persist on stainless steel or plastic for three days.

The study also found that the virus could linger on cardboard for 24 hours.

This new finding comes as England prepares to relax current restrictions from Monday when six people from any number of households – or a group of any size from up to two households – are allowed to gather in parks and gardens.

The “stay at home” order will end, but people are still going to be encouraged to stay local.

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