Advice on the control of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and its associated disease, COVID 19

Blog | 14 March 2020

Coronaviruses are a wide group of viruses which cause respiratory illness in people.  They range in severity from the common cold to more serious infections such as severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS

The Wuhan novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2 (previously 2019-nCoV and WN-CoV), and the coronavirus disease associated with it, known as COVID-19, is described in detail on the UK Government’s website;

and the Irish Republic’s website;

and (internationally) the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control

and these should always be the default reference sources as appropriate.

The Director General of the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic on 11 March 2020.

The risk of severe disease associated with COVID-19 infection for people in the UK and Ireland is currently considered moderate for the general population and high for older adults and individuals with chronic underlying conditions.  Symptoms of coronavirus infection can include high temperature, coughing and a shortness of breath, which may lead to severe pneumonia and breathing difficulties.  There is as yet no specific treatment for coronavirus, care aims to relieve the symptoms.

As SARS-CoV-2 is a new virus, its transmission between people is still not fully known, though it is thought to follow the normal transmission route of other coronaviruses.  This is primarily direct inhalation of aerosolised droplets from infected persons.  In addition, transmission can be via the hands touching surfaces contacted by infected persons and then touching the mucous membranes of the nose or eyes.  The transmission of COVID-19 is thus most likely in direct person to person contact in public spaces and buildings.  Government advice is to avoid close contact with other people, defined as being within 2m of them for more than 15 minutes. 

To date, and whilst the original source of COVID-19 is likely to have been animal to human transfer, there is no evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted by food.

Routine cleaning and disinfection of food factories should, therefore, follow existing procedures using existing chemicals and cleaning instruction cards (CICs).  Similarly, routine hand hygiene practices would be an effective control and frequent hand washing should be encouraged.

However, and as a precaution, coronaviruses are not heat resistant, so thorough cooking of raw foods would also eliminate the virus.

Coronaviruses are enveloped viruses and the normal pattern of disinfectant resistance in microorganisms (McDonnell & Burke, 2011) is: -

enveloped viruses <Gram positive bacteria <Gram negative bacteria <yeasts <filamentous fungi <non-enveloped viruses <Mycobacterium <bacterial spores

As such, coronaviruses are among the weakest or least resistant organisms to disinfection.

Holchem produce a range of disinfection products that could play a role in the reduction of COVID-19 transmission by disinfecting hand contact surfaces (surface disinfectants) or the hands directly (hand hygiene products).  View Handwashing video.


In such establishments were a case of COVID-19 has been confirmed, surface decontamination should follow the cleaning and disinfection guidance of the government and the use of 1000ppm available chlorine as a disinfectant is suggested.  Holchem produce a range of Sodium Hypochlorite based products.

As an alternative to this, a disinfectant that has passed EN 14476 : 2013 + A1 2015 (Chemical disinfectants and antiseptics - quantitative suspension test for the evaluation of virucidal activity in the medical area - Test method and requirements (Phase 2/Step 1)) should be used, at its highest recommended in-use concentration.

Please note, the use of SARS-CoV-2 as a disinfectant test strain in disinfectant tests would not be appropriate due to its risk to laboratory workers, so the performance of a disinfectant against SARS-CoV-2 has to be inferred from testing other viruses.  Passing the method of EN 14476 using viral disinfectant test strains that are thought to be more resistant than SARS-CoV-2, or are surrogates of SARS-CoV-2 (e.g. canine or feline coronavirus) is also deemed to be evidence of virucidal activity towards SARS-CoV-2.

In Food/Beverage production facilities, the use of Peracetic acid might be appropriate and less corrosive than Sodium Hypochlorite.  Holchem supply a range of Peracetic acid based products (Perbac, Perbac OPD) and these should be used at their highest recommended in use conditions with a contact time of 15 minutes.  If Sodium Hypochlorite or Peracetic acid are not available, Holchem also supply Active which can be used at 5% with a contact time of 15 minutes.

For small scale disinfection appropriate to hotels, nursing homes and general public areas, Optimum Virucidal Disinfectant conforms to EN14476.  This is a ready to use product supplied in trigger sprays.

If COVID-19 could be associated with bodily fluids, then these should be decontaminated with 10,000ppm available chlorine.

Holchem supply a Human Bodily Fluid Incident Kit, that provides approximately 10,000 ppm available chlorine, made up fresh using the Chlorine Release Tablets provided in the kit.



McDonnell & Burke, 2011 Disinfection, is it time to reconsider Spaulding, J. Hosp. Infect 78(3), 163-170)