Very little is known about how the SARS-CoV-2 virus survives outside the human body. Probably the most up-to-date summary of scientific information we have on survival in the environment is from the European Centre for Disease control (ECDC) and the following is extracted from their recent technical report:
Recent publications have evaluated the survival of SARS-CoV-2 on different surfaces. According to van Dormagen et al., the environmental stability of SARS-CoV-2 is up to three hours in the air post-aerosolization, up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel, albeit with significantly decreased titers . These findings are comparable with results obtained for environmental stability of SARS-CoV-1. These findings resulted from experiments in a controlled environment and should be interpreted with caution in the real-life environment. Moreover, different levels of environmental contamination have been detected in rooms of COVID-19 patients, ranging from 1 out of 13 to 13 out of 15 samples testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 before cleaning. No air samples were positive in these studies, but one sample from an air exhaust outlet was positive indicating that virus particles may be displaced by air and deposited on surfaces [4,5]. In a study of environmental contamination in a Chinese hospital during the COVID-19 outbreak, SARS-CoV-2 was detected in environmental samples from the COVID-19 dedicated intensive care units (ICU), the COVID-19 dedicated obstetric isolation ward and the COVID-19 dedicated isolation ward. SARS-CoV-2 was also detected on objects such as the self-service printers used by patients to self-print the results of their exams, desktop keyboards and doorknobs. Virus was detected most commonly on gloves (15.4% of samples) and rarely on eye protection (1.7%) . This evidence shows the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in the environment of a COVID-19 patient, therefore reinforcing the belief that fomites play a role in transmission of SARS-CoV-2; however, the relative importance of this route of transmission compared to direct exposure to respiratory droplets is still unclear.