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How COVID-19 is spread

Last updated: 27 October 2020 at 2.40pm

You can get COVID-19 if you come into close contact with someone who has the virus.

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.

You can also get the virus from 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.

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. Everyone should stay at home and avoid crowded places as much as possible. Leave if a location becomes overcrowded and you can't keep 2 metres apart from other people.

Read guidance on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19

Read more about close contact and casual contact

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 (coronavirus) can survive for:

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

Pets and COVID-19

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

Protect yourself by properly cleaning your hands often when in contact with pets.

Read advice on how to wash your hands properly

Related topics

Shopping safely during the COVID-19 pandemic

Symptoms of COVID-19

Face coverings, medical masks and disposable gloves

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