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

Blog | 17 February 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.

Typical symptoms of coronavirus infection include high temperature, coughing and a shortness of breath. These may progress to severe pneumonia with shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. The current evidence is that most cases appear to be mild.  Those people that have died in Wuhan appear to have had pre-existing health conditions, and it is expected that coronavirus can cause more severe symptoms in people with chronic underlying conditions such as renal failure, heart or lung conditions or immune-compromised conditions.  There is as yet no specific treatment for coronavirus, care aims to relieve the symptoms.

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

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. 

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.

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.

Routine cleaning and disinfection of establishments such as food factories where COVID-19 is unlikely or limited, should therefore control COVID-19 and we should not recommend anything beyond this.  Similarly, routine hand hygiene practices would be an effective control and frequent hand washing should be encouraged.

In such establishments were COVID-19 is more likely or contamination of surfaces is more frequent, such as hotels or retail outlets, decontamination of surfaces should follow the cleaning and disinfection guidance of the government and the use of 1000ppm available chlorine as a disinfectant is suggested.

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.  A disinfectant passing EN 14476, which uses viral disinfectant test strains that are thought to be much more resistant than SARS-CoV-2, is thus deemed to be evidence of virucidal activity towards SARS-CoV-2.

Holchem supply Sodium Hypochlorite at nominal concentrations of 15% wt/wt (189,000 ppm v/v). This product is supported by EN14476 at recommended use concentrations of 200 ppm with a contact time of 5 minutes in clean conditions.

In large scale Food/Beverage production facilities, the use of Peracetic acid might be appropriate and less corrosive than Sodium Hypochlorite.  Holchem supply Perbac OPD (2% active as PAA), this passes EN14476 at a recommended use concentration of 2% v/v with a contact time of 5 minutes in clean conditions.

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)