How long does Coronavirus survive on different surfaces?


coronavirus surfaces


What is Covid-19?


Covid-19 is a highly infectious disease. For many people, the symptoms are mild, and you can recover without needing special treatment. However, around 1 in 6 people with the disease will become seriously ill and develop difficulty breathing. The number of confirmed cases and deaths from covid-19 are constantly rising all around the world making prevention efforts extremely important. It is also paramount that you know the symptoms and what to do if you feel ill.


How does it spread?


It is very easy to catch coronavirus, the virus which causes covid-19. There are many ways in which it can spread from person to person. People can catch covid-19 if they breathe in droplets from a person who has the disease. This can happen when an infected person coughs or exhales droplets. It is important to stay more than 2 metres away from a person who is sick or wear a medical mask to create a barrier for the droplets. These droplets can also land on objects and surfaces around the person. Other people catch coronavirus by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. It is paramount that people stay at home, socially distance themselves and self-isolate to prevent the virus spreading.


Coronavirus on surfaces


Not everyone is able to stay at home all the time. Key workers must go to work, use public transport and mix with high risk people. People also need to go to the supermarkets to get their groceries. The surfaces in these public places are likely to be contaminated, these germs can then be brought into your home if you pick them up.

Scientists are undertaking research on how long the virus can survive outside the human body. New scientific findings are constantly being revealed. The following information is taken from the New England Journal of Medicine and Harvard Medical School Coronavirus Resource Pack updated 5 April 2020.



The New England Journal of Medicine recently published a study that tested how long the coronavirus can remain stable on different kinds of surfaces within a controlled laboratory setting. They found that it was still detectable on cardboard for up to 24 hours. This is also a good indicator for other porous material like cardboard, such as fabric and paper.




Supermarkets and pharmacies are encouraging contactless payment. This decision was taken to reduce the exchange of germs on money and eliminate unnecessary hand touching. Scientists found that active particles of coronavirus lasted 4 hours on copper (such as 1 and 2p coins).


Plastic, stainless steel and counter tops


Coronavirus can survive on plastic, stainless steel and countertops as a functional and infectious virus for up to 3 days (72 hours), the longest of all the materials. This is the general rule for hard, shiny surfaces. This can include children’s play equipment, public transport handles and your mobile phone. Click here to watch a video by Dr Lena Ciric from UCL showing you how to effectively clean your phone using just household soap and water.

The virus does degrade over time, but you should avoid touching surfaces in shared spaces and wash your hands regularly.


In the Air


A single cough can produce up to 3000 droplets. 3 hours is the amount of time that coronavirus can survive and remain infectious in airborne droplets before falling. These can be spread from person to person if you are not keeping 2 metres apart or if you are touching surfaces upon which droplets have landed and have not been disinfected.


How to prevent spread of the coronavirus?


The good news is, according to research from the Journal of Hospital Infection, coronavirus can be inactivated within a minute by disinfecting surfaces with products containing 62-71 % alcohol.

Key surfaces to disinfect at home regularly are:

  • Your phone
  • Computers, keyboards, iPads
  • Kitchen tops
  • Shared utensils
  • Taps and the flush handles in the bathroom
  • Light switches
  • Door handles
  • Bedside tables

You can also minimise spread by:

  • Wearing (surgical) gloves
  • Wearing medical masks when shopping
  • Staying at home
  • Self isolating from anyone in your household who is displaying symptoms
  • Avoiding populated places when exercising/getting fresh air


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