The coronavirus remains traceable on surfaces for up to seventeen days says the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) after research on cruise ship Diamond Princess. The organisation detected the virus on a variety of surfaces in cabins.

The traces were found in cabins of both symptomatic and asymptomatic infected passengers, but before disinfection procedures had been conducted. Although these data cannot be used to determine whether transmission occurred from contaminated surfaces, further study of fomite transmission of SARS-CoV-2 aboard cruise ships is warranted, says the CDC on its website.

The World Health Organization said on its website that it is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but they estimated this to be in the range of a few hours up to several days.

Settings for outbreaks

Cruise ships are often settings for outbreaks of infectious diseases because of their closed environment, contact between travelers from many countries, and crew transfers between ships. On the Diamond Princess, transmission largely occurred among passengers before quarantine was implemented, whereas crew infections peaked after quarantine, says the CDC.

Available statistical models of the Diamond Princess outbreak suggest that 17.9 per cent of infected persons never developed symptoms.

The CDC issued a level 3 travel warning on March 17, recommending that all cruise travel be deferred worldwide. Warning level 3 stands for: avoid non-essential travel due to widespread ongoing transmission.

Quarantined in Japan

The Diamond Princess was anchored in Japan for some time last month after hundreds of the 3700 people on board were infected with the virus. During the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Diamond Princess was the setting of the largest outbreak outside mainland China. The people on board were all quarantined for several weeks.