Questions and answers on COVID-19: Various

COVID-19 and sport

1. What is the risk of contracting COVID-19 while exercising?

There is a potential risk of contracting SARS-CoV-2 infection while exercising and this applies to both athletes and coaches. This is a particular issue in settings where athletes train in groups, engage in contact sports, share equipment or use common areas, including locker rooms. Transmission could occur through direct contact with an infected individual, indirect exposure to the virus through a contaminated object, or via aerosols/droplets from an infected individual.

Nevertheless, in light of the benefits of regular physical activity to physical and mental health, it is important to remain active during the COVID-19 pandemic, while respecting physical distancing and personal hygiene recommendations. People should not exercise if they have symptoms of COVID-19 such as a cough, fever or difficulty breathing.

COVID-19 and food

1. What is the risk of COVID-19 infection from food  products?

The main route of transmission of coronaviruses in humans is through inhalation of respiratory fluids. There is no evidence to suggest that handling food or consuming food is associated with COVID-19. The risk of infection via this route is therefore considered very low, although it cannot be completely excluded.

Hence, basic hygienic precautions should be taken to prevent food-related infections, including washing hands after the handling of packages and before preparing and consuming food.

COVID-19 and animals

1. What is the risk of COVID-19 infection from animals or animal products imported from affected areas?

There is no evidence that any of the animals or animal products authorised for entry into the European Union pose a risk to the health of EU citizens because of COVID-19.

2. What is the risk of COVID-19 infection from contact with pets and other animals in the EU?

Current research links COVID-19 to certain types of bat as the original source, but does not exclude other animals as intermediate links. Several types of coronavirus can infect animals and be transmitted to other animals and humans.

The role played by pets and farm animals in the epidemiology and transmission of COVID-19 is currently unknown.

The risk of pets living in affected households being infected with SARS-CoV-2 has been documented, with a number of animals testing positive for the virus. Dogs and cats have both been reported as being infected by their owners, and some other animals (e.g. ferrets and hamsters) can become infected. However, current evidence indicates that it is very unlikely that household pets play any role in spreading the virus.

Outbreaks in small, farmed animals (minks) have been documented all over the world, including in Europe (the Netherlands, Denmark, Spain) and the US, as well as among workers at affected farms. The risk of transmission of mink SARS-CoV-2 to humans is greatly increased when there are large numbers of infected animals in small spaces. Cases of infected humans spreading the mink SARS-CoV-2 variant further in the human population have been reported in the EU/EEA.

Other farm animals do not seem to be affected by SARS-CoV-2.

As a general precaution, it is always wise to observe basic principles of hygiene such as frequent handwashing when in contact with animals.

Can SARS-CoV-2 be transmitted by touching  contaminated surfaces or objects?

All objects can potentially be contaminated with SARS-CoV-2 through respiratory droplets from an infectious person and people can be infected with SARS-CoV-2 through contact with surfaces. 

However, evidence indicates that surface transmission is not the main route by which SARS-CoV-2 spreads, and the risk is considered to be low. The main way in which people are infected with SARS-CoV-2 is through exposure to respiratory droplets carrying infectious virus. 

On porous surfaces (textiles, cardboard, cash, etc.), studies report viable viruses cannot be detected within minutes to hours. On non-porous surfaces (plastic, stainless steel, glass, etc.), viable virus can be detected for days to weeks. Almost all infectious virus will, however, disappear from such surfaces within 72 hours. In most situations, cleaning surfaces with soap or detergent is enough to reduce risk. 

Still, ECDC recommends frequent hand-washing with soap and water or the use of alcohol-based hand sanitisers and avoiding touching face, eyes and mouth after physical contact with frequently-touched objects, including banknotes and coins.