How long can SARS-CoV-2 (Coronavirus) particles survive in the air, or on certain surfaces?

Bottom Line:

SARS-CoV-2 particles remain viable for up to 3 hours in aersolized (air) droplets, and 4-72 hours on surfaces, depending on the material (plastic, stainless steel, copper, or cardboard). This suggests that transmission via aerosols or inanimate objects is possible.


van Doremalen, N. et al. Aerosol and surface stability of SARS-CoV-2 as compared with SARS-CoV-1. New England Journal of Medicine (2020). DOI: 10.1056/NEJMc2004973

Date Published:

17 March 2020


In this study, investigators generated aerosolized virus particles of both SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV-1 (SARS epidemic of 2003) at concentrations similar to tested samples from human respiratory tracts. They tested the persistence of viral particles in 5 different conditions: in aerosols, or on plastic, stainless steel, copper, and cardboard. They found that SARS-CoV-2 could persist on plastic and stainless steel for up to 72 hours, copper for up to 4 hours, and cardboard for up to 24 hours. Both SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-Cov-1 showed exponential decrease in the virus titre (number of virus particles in a given volume) as time passed. These results indicate that transmission of coronavirus is plausible via aerosols and inanimate objects, as was seen in 2003 with the SARS-Cov-1 virus epidemic.

Summary by: Megan Wheatley