There is so much weight and thought that must be put in appreciating the fact that the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) is now acknowledged and accepted as airborne.
In a Forbes article published early this month, the acknowledgement that Covid can possibly be airborne started as early as April 2020 last year when aerosol researchers said that, “Science explains the mechanisms of such transport and there is evidence that this is a significant route of infection in indoor environments. Despite this, no countries or authorities consider airborne spread of Covid-19 in their regulations to prevent infection transmission indoors.”
The same sentiment has also been published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States around June 2020 where they said that, “Our results show that the airborne transmission route is highly virulent and dominant for the spread of Covid-19.”
Around the same time, the World Health Organization (WHO) acknowledged its airborne transmission, saying that, “Airborne transmission is defined as the spread of an infectious agent caused by the dissemination of droplet nuclei (aerosols) that remain infectious when suspended in air over long distances and time. Airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 can occur during medical procedures that generate aerosols. WHO, together with the scientific community, has been actively discussing and evaluating whether SARS-CoV-2 may also spread through aerosols in the absence of aerosol generating procedures, particularly in indoor settings with poor ventilation.”
But it was The Lancet’s medical journal report published in April 2021 that detailed 10 scientific reasons supporting the basis that Covid-19 is indeed airborne:
1. Superspreading events account for substantial Covid-19 transmission.
2. Long-range transmission of Covid-19 between people in adjacent rooms but never in each other’s presence has been documented in quarantine hotels.
3. Direct measurements show that speaking produces thousands of aerosol particles and few large droplets, which supports the airborne route.
4. Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is higher indoors than outdoors and is substantially reduced by indoor ventilation.
5. Nosocomial infections have been documented in health care organizations, where there have been strict contact-and-droplet precautions and use of personal protective equipment (PPE) designed to protect against droplet but not aerosol exposure.
6. Viable SARS-CoV-2 has been detected in the air. In laboratory experiments, SARS-CoV-2 stayed infectious in the air for up to 3 hours with a half-life of 1 hour.
7. SARS-CoV-2 has been identified in air filters and building ducts in hospitals with Covid-19 patients; such locations could be reached only by aerosols.
8. Studies involving infected caged animals that were connected to separately caged uninfected animals via an air duct have shown transmission of SARS-CoV-2 that can be adequately explained only by aerosols.
9. No study has provided strong or consistent evidence to refute the hypothesis of airborne SARS-CoV-2 transmission
10. There is limited evidence to support other dominant routes of transmission, i.e. respiratory droplet or fomite.
This pushed WHO and locally our Department of Health to say that current health protocols — most notably wearing a mask among other things — are enough. From a health agency standpoint, one may understand this perspective. Overall, the government is not stressing any of this in their communication.
One may wonder, why?
Business impact is one of the major reasons, and this is why policies behind different quarantine classifications still support businesses and establishments. Government allows a certain percentage of the restaurants’ and establishments’ dining capacity to be open.
Sure, the information is somewhere out there if one would look closely, but if one only spends his time online browsing his social media feed rather than reading the news and truly understanding the impact of this airborne transmission, then the decision to be taken becomes ill-informed.
Simply put, the risk-taking is left to us citizens. If one is well-informed then the action to be taken is carefully thought of; otherwise, one becomes at risk of being infected.
The call to action here in this case — while we do need to have a balancing act as country, protecting the citizenry and our economy — can be summarized to two things: One is to have an effective contact tracing capability because, really, ever wonder what happens in those contact tracing forms you see in cafés, banks, and other open establishments? The Gubat sa Ciudad fiasco resulted in the management not being able to trace at least 100 people due to its ineffective contact tracing protocols.
Of course, this effectiveness in contact tracing will also depend on having our national identification system rolled out. Until then, we should arm ourselves with knowledge and continue to read on what’s happening not just here in the country, but also regionally and globally, so we truly understand the risks that we get ourselves into the moment we decide to go outside the comfort of our homes.
Kay Calpo Lugtu is the chief operating officer of Hungry Workhorse, a digital and culture transformation firm. Her advocacies include nation-building, sustainability education and financial literacy. The author may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.