The small droplets of the COVID-19 virus suspended in the air by an infected person can remain alive for a few hours.
The WHO and other health organizations had initially maintained that the virus spreads through droplets when someone coughs or sneezes. Those droplets do not linger in the air and fall onto surfaces, which is why washing hands has been identified as a critical prevention measure.
However, on July 9, 2020, the WHO, on par with the emerging evidence, acknowledged that the virus could spread via tiny particles suspended in the air in specific settings, like enclosed and crowded spaces.
Some infections could be transmitted by exposure to viruses in small droplets that can linger in the air from minutes to hours. That kind of transmission is referred to as airborne transmission. The aerosol particles can remain in the atmosphere for long periods and transmitted to others over distances greater than 1 meter. Under these circumstances, scientists also believe that the smaller COVID-19 infectious droplets from an infected person contaminated enough to spread the virus to other people. The infected people were in the same space during the same time after the person with COVID-19 had left.
A study conducted on minimizing airborne transmission of COVID-19 indoors also concluded that the virus remained stable in airborne particles with a half-life of more than one hour.
Another publication in the New England Journal of Medicine has indicated the virus' presence in aerosol particles for up to 3 hours in an experimentally induced aerosol-generating procedure.
However, the available data also represents that it is much more common for the virus to spread through close contact with a person than through airborne transmission.
The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a lot of potentially dangerous misinformation. For reliable advice on COVID-19 including symptoms, prevention and available treatment, please refer to the World Health Organisation or your national healthcare authority.