The coronavirus is proven to spread via airborne transmissions. Aerosol particles can remain in the air for over 3 hours and disperse over 2 meters.
In 2020, WHO stated that COVID-19 could spread by tiny particles suspended in the air but said further assessments were required. WHO's report also stated that COVID-19 is disseminated through aerosol transmission. It means that once the virus is transmitted, the infection stays suspended in the air for an extended period. Hence doctors and medicals experts have strictly advised people to sanitize their hands and wear masks.
An article by the scientific journal 'Nature' in March 2021 states how initially, in March 2020, WHO refuted claims about COVID-19 being airborne and started acknowledging the possibility three months later. Then came the suggestions and discussions by different scientists from around the world about also focusing on proper ventilation in hospitals and other structures.
A year later, new studies state that COVID-19 is airborne. According to The Lancet article published in April 2021, COVID-19 is predominantly transmitted through the air. The Lancet report refutes that the current scientific view that the coronavirus spreads through smaller aerosols that remain suspended in the air. Six experts from the US, UK, and Canada wrote the report and presented ten points to prove that COVID-19 is primarily transmitted through the airborne route.
The laboratory experiments revealed that the coronavirus stays infectious in the air for up to three hours with a half-life of one and half hours. Samples for the experiment were taken from sanitized rooms occupied by COVID-19 patients and cars of infected people. The report does not mention any specific distance for the virus to be transmitted from one person to another. The report defends its claim by saying that there is limited evidence to support other dominant routes of transmission.
The British Medical Journal (BMJ) addressed the concern of maintaining distance in one of its April 2021 reports. It states that infected people produce small respiratory particles laden with the coronavirus as they exhale. Some of it is immediately transmitted in the short range of 1 meter, while the rest is dispersed over a longer range (more than 2 meters). It means that airborne transmissions via aerosols can occur even over an extended distance and time.
In October 2020, Healthline quoted Dr. Dean Winslow of Stanford Health Care, who said that there was a greater risk indoors, where aerosols can stay aloft in the air for a significant time. Dr. Winslow also said that aerosols evaporate and disperse quicker outdoors than they do indoors. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also stated in 2020 that positive COVID-19 cases were found even when people maintained a six-foot distance. Such cases were prevalent in enclosed spaces with less ventilation.
These reports about the coronavirus being present in the air for longer periods and the distance it can cover while staying alive are not limited to a specific coronavirus mutation. Regardless of variants, the infection can be prevented by staying clean, wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, and following other preventive measures.
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.