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The World Health Organisation acknowledged there is evidence that COVID-19 can be spread in tiny airborne particles. The review comes after hundreds of scientists urged WHO to update its guidelines during the pandemic in the light of the new evidence.

“The possibility of airborne transmission in public settings cannot be ruled out,” Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical lead, said. “There is some evidence emerging but it is not definitive. We acknowledge that there is emerging evidence in this field and therefore we believe we have to be open to this evidence and understand its implications regarding transmissions and precautions,” she said.

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More than 200 scientists on July 6 have outlined evidence that novel coronavirus can spread in tiny airborne particles. The details were revealed in an open letter to the Geneva-based agency, published in the Clinical Infectious Diseases journal. However, it is clear that scientists still lack a complete understanding of the respiratory disease even after several months into the pandemic.

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The WHO has previously said the virus that causes the COVID-19 respiratory disease spreads primarily through small droplets expelled from the nose and mouth of an infected person that quickly sink to the ground.

The term ‘airbone’ refers to the transmission of a pathogen through tiny respiratory droplets(aerosols) that can remain in the atmosphere, as opposed to large droplets that fall to the ground within a few feet.

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Any change in the WHO’s assessment of the risk of transmission could affect its current advice on keeping 1-metre (3.3 feet) of physical distancing. Governments, which rely on the agency for guidance policy, may also have to adjust public health measures aimed at curbing the spread of the virus.