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 How long does the omicron variant stay in the air?

Scientific experts agree that it is too early to conclude that the pandemic is nearing its end

January 19, 2022 3:07pm

Updated: January 19, 2022 5:00pm

Research conducted by the University of Bristol in England indicates that, on average, the omicron variant of COVID-19 can remain airborne for 20 minutes. After this period, it loses approximately 90% of its infectious capacity. According to the study, coronavirus has its greatest infection strength within the first five minutes.

The pathogen is transmitted "in airborne droplets," which are usually expelled by sneezing, talking and coughing. The droplets can become airborne, especially indoors, say the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Keeping a distance between people and the use of masks are essential to protect against contagion, the research claims.

“People have been focused on poorly ventilated spaces and thinking about airborne transmission over meters or across a room. I’m not saying that doesn’t happen, but I think still the greatest risk of exposure is when you’re close to someone,” said Prof Jonathan Reid, director of the University of Bristol’s Aerosol Research Centre and the study’s lead author.

Scientific experts agree that it is too early to conclude that the pandemic is nearing its end.

"An endemic coronavirus, which no longer paralyzes societies, is possible, but it will only be the case if no new variants emerge that evade the immunity of previous strains," said Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on Tuesday.

Fauci said that what was concerning about the new wave of omicron is the variant’s ability to reinfect the same host, making it challenging to achieve herd immunity.

Stéphane Bancel, CEO of Moderna, claimed that a vaccine against the omicron variant could be ready in a few weeks, pending approval by regulatory authorities.