Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Infection Control Expert Group (ICEG) has consistently recognised the potential for transmission of SARS-CoV-2 via aerosols in specific circumstances. ICEG advice recommending the use of particulate filter respirators for aerosol generating procedures performed on COVID-19 cases was first published on 5 March 2020.
ICEG has also recognised broader circumstances in which there may be potential for aerosol transmission in clinical care. This includes in the context of certain behaviours, such as shouting. Guidance relating to this was published on 30 July 2020. ICEG acknowledges the potential for aerosol transmission in these settings and notes the risk may be higher under certain conditions, such as poorly ventilated indoor crowded environments.
Evidence to date suggests that, similar to other respiratory viruses, COVID-19 is mainly transmitted by respiratory droplets which are spread from an infected person to others, during talking, shouting, singing, coughing or sneezing. These droplets can also land on objects or surfaces so the virus is transmitted through contact with a contaminated surface or object. Experts agree there is a gradient from large droplets to aerosols, however, those who have been in close or direct contact with a COVID-19 case are at highest risk.
The most effective individual measures to prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2 are good hand and respiratory hygiene, physical distancing, staying home and getting tested if you are unwell, and wearing a mask if you are in an area with significant community transmission, particularly when it is difficult to practise physical distancing. Together, these measures minimise the risk of transmission of SARS-CoV-2.