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Do you know how long COVID-19 lives outside the body?

Why are we having to keep our distance from others and constantly wash our hands? It’s a bit extreme, right? Wrong. COVID-19 hangs around on surfaces for between 1 and 3 days. This depends on what the surface type is, and other conditions like temperature.1  So what does this mean for us when we go shopping, handle money, open a door? It’s almost impossible to know if a surface has been infected. How can we protect ourselves when we have to go out, and when we re-enter our home?


What the experts have established

One of the consistent messages from experts is that COVID-19 lives on some surfaces longer than others. Ian. M. Mackay (Adjunct Assistant Professor) and Katherine Arden (Virologist), both from the University of Queensland have reported the following:2

  • The time it can survive as airborne droplets and remain infectious is 3 hours. What they don’t know is whether we can produce enough droplets in a single cough to infect someone else.
  • Up to 72 hours is how long it can survive on hard, shiny surfaces like benchtops. glass, plastic, stainless steel etc. Some examples include play equipment, door handles, your mobile phone, transport.
  • It can live up to 24 hours on materials like cardboard, paper or fabric. I instantly thought of my material shopping bags.
  • They think the virus also spreads by touch, so when you directly touch a surface with the virus present then touch another surface. However, the virus is said to rapidly degrade during this time.2


Stopping the surface spread

I think we’ve been told to wash our hands more in the past few weeks than from our entire childhood years combined, but for good reason. It’s quite confronting now when we do have to go out to pick up food or a script, just how many surfaces we touch. When we’re in the workplace, at a playground or at the shops, our hands and bags should be our main focus for transmission.

The experts are also saying not to touch our faces, specifically eyes, nose and mouth.3  I don’t know about you, but this just makes me want to touch them more. It’s like your skin says ‘scratch that itch’ every time you think about it.


Keeping safe when you’re out

  • When you’re at the shops, take some wipes. Most places have some form of disinfectant to tackle your trolley, but take some just in case. At my local Coles, they give you a disinfectant wipe on entry. At Woolworths, I’ve noticed our local store has hand sanitiser and has a staff member spraying trolleys and allocating them to shoppers.
  • Manage your shopping bags by thinking about not bringing them into your kitchen and plonking them directly on your kitchen bench. We are now bringing ours to the veranda and then emptying the contents by hand. They go straight into the wash or get quarantined for 24 hours on their own.
  • Pay by card, or transfer and avoid cash.
  • Wash all your fresh food. Discard any packaging and wash hands thoroughly.2

It’s good to be reminded about some ways we can actively prevent the spread of COVID-19 as a city here in Lake Macquarie and as a nation. Understanding how long the Coronavirus can live on surfaces is a brilliant way of protecting your family as well. We have the power to stop this. If we stay home as much as possible and we stop the surface spread, we’ll recover faster. It’s that simple.

Stay safe.



  1. World Health Organisation Q & A Coronaviruses {Accessed March 2020}
  2. World Economic Forum: This is how long coronavirus lives on surfaces {Accessed March 2020}
  3. Health NSW COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions {Accessed March 2020}

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