Researchers studying two cruise ships that were sites of COVID-19 outbreaks found coronavirus RNA on surfaces in the ships up to 17 days after passengers left. This is much longer than other viruses like the flu, which can typically be found on surfaces for up to two days. The coronavirus RNA was found in the cabins of passengers who were both symptomatic and asymptomatic from infection. Of note, the evidence of the virus was found prior to disinfection procedures.
Previously, research had found that coronavirus can last up to three days on plastic and stainless steel. The findings help explain why the cruise ships were the sites of COVID-19 outbreaks across multiple voyages, infecting more than 800 passengers and crew members on the two ships studied. These findings suggest another challenge in containing the COVID pandemic, and reinforce the importance of the basics – including avoiding commonly used surfaces, frequently washing your hands, and not touching your face.