The virus that causes COVID-19 can fall on surfaces. People can get infected if they touch those surfaces and then touch their nose, mouth, or eyes. In most situations, the risk of infection from touching a surface is low. The main route of infection with COVID-19 is not to touch a contaminated surface, but through the respiratory system.
Instead, people should focus on wearing masks, especially N95 or KN95, and on maintaining social distancing as much as possible. When the New York MTA surveyed passengers in late September and early October, three-quarters said cleaning and disinfecting made them feel safe when using transportation. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds immediately after cleaning and disinfecting them. By May, WHO and health agencies around the world recommended that people living in homes, buses, churches, schools and communal stores in the community clean and disinfect surfaces, especially those that are touched frequently.
Disinfectant products may also contain cleaning agents, so they are designed to clean by removing dirt and inactivating microbes. In most situations, cleaning surfaces with soap or detergent, rather than disinfecting them, is enough to reduce the risk. If someone sick with COVID-19 lives with you or has been at home in the past 24 hours, immediately disinfect frequently touched surfaces after cleaning them with soap and water. If the sick person is unable to clean, use a mask and gloves to clean and disinfect their area only when necessary.
If you can't maintain a separate bedroom or bathroom from the person with COVID-19, make sure they clean and disinfect the shared spaces after each use. That could explain why a global comparison of government interventions to control the pandemic in its early months found that cleaning and disinfecting shared surfaces was one of the least effective in reducing transmission11. The change in guidelines followed a report, which has not been published in detail, that a worker at a frozen food company in the northern port city of Tianjin became infected after handling contaminated containers of frozen pork imported from Germany. When focusing on high-touch surfaces, cleaning with soap or detergent should be sufficient to further reduce the risk of relatively low transmission of fomites in situations where there has been no suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 indoors. Both cleaning (using soap or detergent) and disinfecting (using a product or process designed to inactivate SARS-CoV) can reduce the risk of fomite transmission.
There has been an increase in poisonings and injuries from the unsafe use of cleaners and disinfectants since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic 23. But it's easier to clean surfaces than improve ventilation, especially in winter, and consumers expect disinfection protocols. If you live with someone who has COVID-19 or has had a guest with a positive case in your home within 24 hours, disinfect your home in addition to regular cleaning. You can reduce the risk of possible spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 by regularly cleaning frequently touched surfaces.