Supermarkets could be a hotbed for infection according to new research which used supercomputers to simulate the airborne spread of COVID-19.
Finnish researchers studied how tiny airborne aerosol particles emitted when someone coughs or sneezes in a supermarket can spread and hang in the air for a number of minutes.
Around 30 specialists in fluid dynamics, aerosol physics, ventilation and biomedical engineering used a supercomputer to simulate and 3D model how the scenario would play out if someone emitted particles from their respiratory tract (by coughing, sneezing or even just talking) between shelves in a supermarket.
Their models, which also took supermarket ventilation into account, found that the virus can remain in the air for longer than originally thought.
It can take several minutes for the cloud of pathogens to disperse, in which time it can spread outside the immediate vicinity.
“Someone infected by the coronavirus, can cough and walk away, but then leave behind extremely small aerosol particles carrying the coronavirus,” Aalto University’s assistant professor Ville Vuorinen said.
“These particles could then end up in the respiratory tract of others in the vicinity”.
The consortium of researchers modeled the airborne movement of particles smaller than 20 micrometres, typical of those emitted during a dry cough, which move along air currents and remain floating in the same place for extended periods of time.
Influenza pathogens including coronavirus can be found in the smallest particles measuring just five micrometres.
Alongside Aalto University, the researchers included specialists from Finnish Meteorological Institute, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and University of Helsinki.