MONTREAL -- How long can the new coronavirus survive on various surfaces?

Quick answer: we're not sure.

McGill University Science Communicator Ada McVean told CTV News that because the virus has only been cultured this week, there is no definitive way to tell how long the virus can survive on plastic, wood, metal and other surfaces.

"The problem, in part, is that the kinds of studies we need to do to get an understanding about how long this specific virus can live on different surfaces requires being able to culture that virus in a lab, and it was only discovered how to do that this week," said McVean.

McVean said upcoming experiments should be able to give a more definitive numbers.

A recently published study on the preprint server for health sciences, medRxiv, found COVID-19's stability is "very similar to SARS."

The article has not been peer-reviewed, however.

  • (The full study is posted at the end of this article.)

The study found the virus could be detected airborne for up to three hours. On copper, the study found the virus could be detected for up to four hours, up to 24 hours on cardboard and two to three days on stainless steel and plastic.

"HCoV-19 was most stable on plastic and stainless steel and viable virus could be detected up to 72 hours post-application (Figure 1B), though by then the virus titer was greatly reduced," the study reads.

Researchers from Princeton University, the University of California, the National Institute of Allergy and 12 Infectious Diseases and others contributed to the study.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still advises that the most common spread of the virus is from person-to-person contact.

However, the CDC adds: "It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads."

More exact numbers, McVean said, should come in the near future.

"I think we'll actually get better numbers moving forward," she said. "In general, you want to clean as much as possible and don't count on the virus having died just because you left the surface alone for a while."