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How COVID-19 is spread

Stay at home – Ireland is at level 5.
Read about the current government restrictions on

The most common way you can get COVID-19 (coronavirus) is by coming into close contact with someone who has the virus. You can spread the virus even if you do not have symptoms.

Close contact

COVID-19 is mainly spread through close contact and droplets that come from your nose and mouth. For example, from someone who is talking loud, singing, shouting, coughing or sneezing.

This happens when people are within 1 to 2 metres of each other.

It is why keeping a 2 metre distance from other people is so effective in reducing the spread.

Infected surfaces

You can also get the virus from infected surfaces. For example, when someone who has the virus sneezes or coughs, droplets with the virus can fall onto surfaces around them.

If you touch that surface and then touch your eyes, nose or mouth, you could become infected too.

That's why it's important to wash your hands properly and often.

How long the virus can survive on surfaces

Common household disinfectants will kill the virus on surfaces. Clean the surface first and then use a disinfectant.

COVID-19 can survive for:

  • up to 72 hours on plastic and stainless steel
  • less than 4 hours on copper
  • less than 24 hours on cardboard

Airborne spread

Airborne transmission is the spread of a virus in very tiny water particles. This can happen over a longer distance than droplets, such as across a room.

Airborne transmission does not appear to play a major role in the spread of COVID-19. But it can happen in some situations.

To protect yourself, keep indoor spaces well ventilated (aired out) by opening windows and doors if possible.

How to protect yourself

Wearing a face covering can protect you. But you should still do the important things needed to prevent the spread of the virus.

These include:

The virus can spread easily in crowded environments. Avoid crowded places as much as possible. Leave a location if it becomes overcrowded and you cannot keep 2 metres apart from other people.

How to protect yourself and others from COVID-19

Pets and COVID-19

There is no evidence that pets such as cats and dogs can spread COVID-19 to humans.

It is possible for COVID-19 to spread from humans to animals in some situations. This is not common but if you have COVID-19, you should keep away from your pet while you are self-isolating, if possible.

Always clean your hands often when in contact with pets. This can prevent the spread of many diseases or viruses.

Read more about COVID-19 and animals on the Department of Agriculture's website

Related topics

Minding your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic

Symptoms of COVID-19

Face coverings, masks and COVID-19

Last updated: 08 March 2021 at 10.05am

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