Can COVID-19 survive on your smartphone? Yes but it depends on conditions

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Life here at Hypertext has changed dramatically since the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the globe, but throughout lockdown we have been trying to keep the wheels turning.

One of those wheels is reviews and since we’re paranoid Android users, we’ve been sanitising every piece of kit we receive and send out.

And that’s a good thing it seems as scientists from Australia have discovered that COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) is able to survive on smartphone screens and many other surfaces for as long as 28 days.

This discovery came from a study titled “The effect of temperature on persistence of SARS-CoV-2 on common surfaces”. The study looked into the risk of fomite transmission from contaminated surfaces. In short, what surfaces allow COVID-19 to survive and which don’t.

The scientists used a variety of materials to test how long the virus survives on them. These materials include:

  • Australian polymer bank notes
  • De-monetised paper bank notes
  • Brushed stainless steel
  • Glass
  • Vinyl
  • Cotton cloth

Each of the surfaces was cut into a 1 – 1.5cm² “coupon” and sanitised before the virus was introduced. Each coupon was then placed in a humidified chamber for specified time point and allowed to incubate. Three separate temperature points were used. These were 20, 30 and 40 degrees Celsius with a constant humidity of 50 percent.

After conducting their research and recording the results, the scientists found at that 20 degrees Celsius, “infectious SARS-CoV-2 virus was still detectable after 28 days post inoculation, for all non-porous surfaces tested”. The good news is that for porous materials (cotton cloth) , no infectious SARS-CoV-2 virus was found past day 14 of inoculation.

At 30 degrees Celsius, the virus was recoverable for seven days on stainless steel, polymer notes and glass and three days for vinyl and cotton cloth. Rather concerning however was that at this temperature, paper notes held onto the virus for longer than the other materials.

“For paper notes, infectious virus was detected for 21 days, although there was less than 1 log of virus recovered for both 14 day and 21 day time points,” the scientists reported.

The good news, although good here is a relative term, is that at 40 degrees Celsius virus recovery was significantly reduced.

“Infectious SARS-CoV-2 was not recovered past 24 h for cotton cloth and 48 h for all remaining surfaces tested. Greater than 4-log reduction (99.99% reduction from starting titre) was observed in less than 24 h at 40 °C on all surfaces,” reads the paper.

Now, we must point out that these tests were conducted in a highly controlled environment but it does warrant further investigation to paint a clearer picture for governments around the world.

“The persistence of SARS-CoV-2 demonstrated in this study is pertinent to the public health and transport sectors. This data should be considered in strategies designed to mitigate the risk of fomite transmission during the current pandemic response,” the scientists reported.

With this in mind it might be best to start cleaning your smartphone with a bit more regularity. We’ve used this piece from Android Central as a guide for a good few months already.

Also, wear a mask and try to avoid touching the surfaces listed above without santising or washing your hands.

We implore our readers to read the full study which was published this month in the Virology Journal.

[Source – Biomed Central][Image – CC 0 Pixabay]

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz writes news, reviews, and opinion pieces for Hypertext. His interests include SMEs, innovation on the African continent, cybersecurity, blockchain, games, geek culture and YouTube.