Detection and infectivity potential of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) environmental contamination in isolation units and quarantine facilities

Clin Microbiol Infect. 2020 Dec;26(12):1658-1662. doi: 10.1016/j.cmi.2020.09.004. Epub 2020 Sep 10.


Objectives: Environmental surfaces have been suggested as likely contributors in the transmission of COVID-19. This study assessed the infectivity of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) contaminating surfaces and objects in two hospital isolation units and a quarantine hotel.

Methods: SARS-CoV-2 virus stability and infectivity on non-porous surfaces was tested under controlled laboratory conditions. Surface and air sampling were conducted at two COVID-19 isolation units and in a quarantine hotel. Viral RNA was detected by RT-PCR and infectivity was assessed by VERO E6 CPE test.

Results: In laboratory-controlled conditions, SARS-CoV-2 gradually lost its infectivity completely by day 4 at ambient temperature, and the decay rate of viral viability on surfaces directly correlated with increase in temperature. Viral RNA was detected in 29/55 surface samples (52.7%) and 16/42 surface samples (38%) from the surroundings of symptomatic COVID-19 patients in isolation units of two hospitals and in a quarantine hotel for asymptomatic and very mild COVID-19 patients. None of the surface and air samples from the three sites (0/97) were found to contain infectious titres of SARS-Cov-2 on tissue culture assay.

Conclusions: Despite prolonged viability of SARS-CoV-2 under laboratory-controlled conditions, uncultivable viral contamination of inanimate surfaces might suggest low feasibility for indirect fomite transmission.

Keywords: COVID-19; Contamination; Coronavirus; SARS-CoV-2; Surface; Viability.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 / transmission*
  • COVID-19 / virology
  • Fomites / virology*
  • Hospitals, Isolation / statistics & numerical data*
  • Housing / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Microbial Viability*
  • RNA, Viral / isolation & purification
  • SARS-CoV-2 / isolation & purification*
  • Surface Properties
  • Temperature


  • RNA, Viral