Current information suggests that the two main routes of transmission of the COVID-19 virus are respiratory droplets
and physical contact with contaminated surfaces. Respiratory droplets are generated when an infected person coughs
or sneezes, and possibly also through breathing and speaking. The heavier droplets tend to fall to the ground rapidly
within a 1 m radius. This is why any person who is in such close contact with someone with respiratory symptoms
(coughing, sneezing) is at a high risk of being exposed to potentially infective respiratory droplets. This also explains
the need to maintain ‘physical distancing’ and keep a distance of at least at 2 metres between people. Droplets may
also land on surfaces (such as doorknobs, lift buttons or counters) where the virus could remain viable and could be
picked up. Therefore, the immediate environment of an infected individual can serve as a source of transmission
(contact transmission). There is ongoing scientific debate around the role of the smallest and lightest virus particles.
These can float in the air for a long time and be present in closed spaces, even after the infected person has left the
The incubation period for COVID-19, which is the time between exposure to the virus and the start of symptoms, is
around 5-6 days, but can be as short as 2 days and as long as 14 days. During this period, also known as the “pre-
symptomatic” period, some infected persons with mild or no symptoms, can be contagious and therefore transmit the
virus to others (ECDC, 2020). This is supported by data that suggests that some people can test positive for the
COVID-19 virus from 1-3 days before they develop symptoms (WHO 2020).

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