FIT WebQoof: Will 14 Hr Janata Curfew Make India COVID-19 ‘Safe’?
A viral message claims that the Janata Curfew of 14 hours exceeds the time the coronavirus virus lives on surfaces, which would make India safe from COVID-19.
A viral message claims that the Janata Curfew of 14 hours exceeds the time the coronavirus virus lives on surfaces, which would make India safe from COVID-19.(Photo: FIT)

FIT WebQoof: Will 14 Hr Janata Curfew Make India COVID-19 ‘Safe’?

In a much-awaited address on the COVID-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for a ‘Janata’ curfew on Sunday, 22 March. The curfew will start from 7 am on Sunday and will end at 9 pm on the same day. He stated that this will be “for the people and by the people of India.”

Claim

Following the address, a message that went viral on social media claimed that this ‘Janta Curfew’ will make India a safer country based on this logic:

Coronavirus stays on surfaces for a maximum of 12 hours. The curfew is for 14 hours. So the places where the virus lives will not be touched for 14 hours, which will break the chain on infection and make India safe.

(Screenshot Courtesy: WhatsApp)

The message soon started circulating on social media platforms.

(Photo Courtesy: Twitter/Screengrab)
(Photo Courtesy: Facebook/Screengrab)
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The Virus Can Survive on Certain Surfaces For Days

The novel coronavirus, responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic, can be stable for several hours to days in aerosols and on surfaces, according to a significant study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles in the US found that the virus could be acquired through the air and by touching contaminated objects.

By mimicking the virus being deposited from a COVID-19 confirmed patient onto surfaces in homes and hospital settings by coughing or touching objects, the scientists found:

  • On copper, the novel coronavirus could remain stable for about four hours.
  • On cardboard, 24 hours.
  • On plastic and stainless steel, for two to three days.
(Photo: The Economist)

Based on these findings, it was concluded that people infected with SARS-CoV-2 could spread the virus without or before experiencing symptoms of the disease.

Importantly, the World Health Organisation has maintained that it is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses.

“Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days.”
The World Health Organisation

“If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with simple disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others”, the organisation said.

Here, it is clear that the claim of the message that ‘the life of the virus is 12 hours’ is scientifically baseless.

Infected But Undiagnosed People Will Still Carry the Virus

Another way this claim is deprived of logic is that it fails to consider individuals who are already infected but undiagnosed, and who would still be out in public after the curfew has been lifted.

Dr Sumit Ray, a critical care specialist in Delhi NCR, called the claim ‘absolutely illogical’ and said,

“The surfaces will be reinfected as soon as people with infection again cough, sneeze on them or touch them. If just a 14 hour break would break the transmission, how hasn’t it stopped in spite of severe lockdowns in Italy, Spain etc. It is totally irrational and illogical.”
Dr Sumit Ray

The incubation period for the virus - which means the time it takes for symptoms to start appearing - can last up to 14 days. Infected people would continue to be carriers of the virus (unknowingly) and pass it on to others.

This is exactly why social distancing and self-quarantine are being consistently stressed upon.

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