How long can coronaviruses survive in a closed elevator? Up to 30 minutes, study says

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Coronavirus-laden particles can persist for up to 30 minutes in an elevator if the doors are kept closed, according to a latest study conducted by the University of Amsterdam.

According to researchers at the University of Amsterdam, aerosols can persist for periods of 10-20 minutes inside an elevator during normal operation while the time frame decreases to just several minutes if the doors are kept open.


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The latest study was conducted by a research performed by the UvA Institute of Physics in collaboration with the Amsterdam UMC.

A cleaner wearing a protective mask cleans the elevator doors at the Shangri-La hotel, in Colombo. (Reuters)
A cleaner wearing a protective mask cleans the elevator doors at the Shangri-La hotel, in Colombo. (Reuters)

“We found out that during such normal operation, it takes 12 to 18 minutes before the number of aerosol particles decreases by a factor of one hundred. When the elevator doors are permanently open, this time reduces to 2 to 4 minutes,” said Daniel Bonn, one of the study’s lead researchers.

Researchers were able to simulate a series of coughs using a specially designed spray nozzle which they sprayed in a controlled quantity of droplets. To detect the aerosols in the elevator, researchers used a laser to illuminate the aerosol particles and counted them.

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Researchers on the study recommend elevator doors be left open for a longer period whenever possible, and for people to either avoid talking and coughing in elevators or wear a proper face mask to avoid transmission.

“It turns out that the ventilation inside all studied elevators in idle position automatically shuts off after 1-2 minutes. This can of course easily be prolonged by reprogramming the action control software,” said Cees van Rijn, the co-researcher on the study.

“In most hospital elevators the ventilator is present in the ceiling and exhausts air from the cabin towards the elevator shaft. A possible measure is reversing the flow direction of the ventilator, creating a downflow of fresh air from the ceiling towards the floor of the elevator cabin,” van Rijn added.

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