Public places are being sanitised all over the country.(HT Photo/Anil Dayal)
Public places are being sanitised all over the country.(HT Photo/Anil Dayal)

Spitting in public, chewing tobacco could spread Covid-19, govt warns

UP government has already announced a ban on sale of tobacco products to deal with the challenge of possible infections.
By HT Correspondent | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON APR 05, 2020 07:23 PM IST

Spitting in public or chewing tobacco products could help spread coronavirus infection, government officials said on Sunday while ruling out the possibility of the disease spreading through the air.

“In view of the increasing dangers from the Covid pandemic, ICMR has issued an advisory requesting people to avoid smoking, spitting in public places and consumption of tobacco products in this period,” said Lav Agarwal, joint secretary, the health ministry.

Uttar Pradesh was among the first states to slap a ban on selling of tobacco products and spitting in public among measures to contain the spread of the disease.

In another related announcement, the government officials confirmed that the rapid diagnostic tests will only be limited to particular areas.

“Rapid diagnostic test to be done in hotspots, evacuation centres and places of large gatherings to test for influenza-like illnesses,” said Lav Agarwal, joint secretary, ministry of health.

ICMR has issued detailed guidelines for antibody testing, also referred to as rapid antibody-based tests, in the last two days while adopting a new strategy to deal with Covid-19 clusters (containment zone), in large migration gatherings and in centers were evacuees are kept in quarantine, where a large number of Covid-19 cases are arising.

In another important announcement, ICMR said that the deadly Covid-19 virus doesn’t spread through the air as suggested recently by the experts in the United States.

Dr R Gangakhedkar of ICMR said that while it was routine for different expert opinions to exist on matters such as this, there was not enough scientific evidence available to suggest Covid-19 was an airborne disease.

“A balanced evidence-based approach must be taken. Had it been an air-borne infection then all the members of a family with a positive case amidst them should test positive as they all breathe the same air,” Gangakhedkar reasoned.

He also cited the example of a hospital environment which could have lent itself to a more regular spread of the infection to all the patients present at the facility.

Airborne diseases spread by viruses and bacteria are considered to be highly contagious and a high-level scientific panel in the United States had suggested that coronavirus could spread by just talking and breathing in contrast with earlier findings and analysis.

The scientists said the virus could stay in the air in the form of an “ultrafine mist” that is produced when people exhale.

“While the current specific research is limited, the results of available studies are consistent with aerosolisation of virus from normal breathing,” said a letter written by Dr Harvey Fineberg, chair of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s standing committee of experts.

India has officially reported little under 4000 positive cases so far and the government says the dangerous phase of community transmissions has not been observed yet.

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