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India-China dispute: India hands over soldier who crossed border - BBC News
The PLA soldier was apprehended by India after he strayed across their contested border on Monday.
image copyrightGetty Images image captionFile photo of an Indian Border Security Force guard near the India-China border A Chinese soldier has been handed back by Indian authorities after he strayed across a contested border in the Himalayan region, army officials said. The People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldier was apprehended in the Demchok area of Ladakh, India said on Monday. The soldier was disoriented and was provided medical assistance and oxygen, the army said in a statement. Tensions have been high between the two countries since a deadly clash in a disputed area in June. The latest incident comes after multiple rounds of military-level talks between the two sides to defuse the situation. The Indian Army said the soldier was handed back according to "established protocols". Soldiers from both countries have periodically skirmished along the poorly demarcated border, called the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Both sides have accused each other of straying into their territory, which have sometimes resulted in clashes. This is not the first time the two sides have handed over citizens who strayed over the border. In September, China freed five Indian nationals after they wandered across the border. India said the youths, from a state bordering China, were hunters who had accidentally strayed into Chinese territory. Relations between the two countries had been deteriorating since June, when at least 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a skirmish in the disputed Ladakh border area. China did not comment on reports that it had also suffered casualties. Then, in August, India accused China of provoking military tensions at the border twice within a week. Both charges were denied by China, which said the stand-off was "entirely" India's fault. And in early September, China accused India of firing "provocative" warning shots at its troops. India in turn, accused China of firing into the air. The allegations, if true, would have been the first time in 45 years that shots were fired at the border. A 1996 agreement prohibits the use of guns and explosives near the border. A few days later, India's foreign minister and his Chinese counterpart met in Russia, where they reached an agreement to de-escalate tensions from their shared border. Since then, several rounds of military-level talks have been conducted. But despite several rounds of talks, the nuclear-armed neighbours have failed to de-escalate tensions. There are several reasons why tensions have risen recently - but competing strategic goals lie at the root, and both sides blame each other. The two countries have fought only one war, in 1962, when India suffered a humiliating defeat.
China's economy continues to bounce back from virus slump - BBC News
The world's second-biggest economy saw growth of almost 5% in the third quarter of the year.
image copyrightGetty Images China's economy continues its recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic according to its latest official figures. The world's second-biggest economy saw growth of 4.9% between July and September, compared to the same quarter last year. However, the figure is lower than the 5.2% expected by economists. China is now leading the charge for a global recovery based on its latest gross domestic product (GDP) data. The near-5% growth is a far cry from the slump the Chinese economy suffered at the start of 2020 when the pandemic first emerged. For the first three months of this year Chinas economy shrank by 6.8% when it saw nationwide shutdowns of factories and manufacturing plants. It was the first time Chinas economy contracted since it started recording quarterly figures back in 1992. The key economic growth figures released on Monday suggest that Chinas recovery is gathering pace, although experts often question the accuracy of its economic data. The quarterly figures are compared to the same quarter of 2019. "I don't think the headline number is bad," said Iris Pang, chief China economist for ING in Hong Kong. "Job creation in China is quite stable which creates more consumption." Chinas trade figures for September also pointed to a strong recovery, with exports growing by 9.9% and imports growing by 13.2% compared to September last year. Over the previous two decades, China had seen an average economic growth rate of about 9% although the pace has gradually been slowing. While the Covid-19 pandemic has hampered this year's growth targets, China also remains in a trade war with the US which has hurt the economy. Broadening recovery Analysis by Robin Brant, BBC China correspondent China's economy continues to grow at rates unimaginable in other Covid-hit countries. Draconian lockdown measures to control the virus combined with some government stimulus appeared to have worked well. While growth of 4.9% is slightly below some forecasts, industrial output - a good barometer of state controlled activity - came in above expectations. China's communist party rulers wanted to see ramped up supply, but retail sales were slower than predicted. Nonetheless it appears to be a broadening recovery with the all-important services sector rebounding. Domestic tourists and travellers have probably helped the recovery continue by spending their money at home because global restrictions mean they can't - yet - go abroad. Earlier this year China's central bank stepped up support for growth and employment after widespread travel restrictions choked economic activity. But it has more recently held off on further easing. Premier Li Keqiang warned earlier in October that China needs to make arduous efforts to achieve its full-year economic goals. For the second quarter of this year, economic growth in China reached 3.2% as it started its rebound. "China's economy remains on the recovery path, driven by a rebound in exports," said Yoshikiyo Shimamine, chief economist at the Dai-Ichi Life Research Institute in Tokyo. "But we cannot say it has completely shaken off the drag caused by the coronavirus." image copyrightGetty Images China's economy should also get a boost this year from "Golden Week" - an annual holiday in October that sees millions of Chinese travel. With international travel severely restricted, millions of Chinese have been travelling, and spending, domestically instead. There were 637m trips in China over the eight-day holiday which generated revenue of 466.6bn RMB ($69.6bn, £53.8bn), according to data from its Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Duty-free sales in the tropical island province of Hainan more than doubled from last year, soaring by nearly 150% according to the local customs data.
EU investigates Instagram over handling of children's data - BBC News
Facebook could face a large fine if Instagram is found to have broken European Union privacy laws.
image copyrightGetty Images Instagram is being investigated by Ireland's Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) over its handling of children's personal data on the platform. The social media app's owner Facebook could face a large fine if Instagram is found to have broken privacy laws. The investigations stem from complaints that Instagram made contact information on business accounts publicly visible to anyone accessing the app. The BBC has approached Facebook for comment. A number of US tech giants have their European headquarters in Ireland, and the DPC is the lead European Union regulator under the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into force in 2018. The DPC is responsible for protecting individuals' right to online privacy, and has the power to issue large fines. The Irish regulator is investigating whether Facebook has a legal basis for processing children's personal data and if it employs adequate protections and restrictions on Instagram for children. Separately, it is also looking at whether Facebook has adhered with GDPR requirements in relation to Instagram's profile and account settings. It is inquiring into whether Facebook is adequately protecting the data protection rights of children as vulnerable persons. The minimum age for having an Instagram account is 13. "Instagram is a social media platform which is used widely by children in Ireland and across Europe," said Graham Doyle, a deputy commissioner with DPC. "The DPC has been actively monitoring complaints received from individuals in this area and has identified potential concerns in relation to the processing of children's personal data on Instagram which require further examination." In February 2019, data scientist David Stier analysed profiles of almost 200,000 Instagram users across the world. He estimated that for over a year, at least 60 million users under the age of 18 were given the option to easily change their profiles into business accounts. Instagram business accounts require users to display their phone numbers and email addresses publicly, meaning that personal data belonging to many users is visible to other Instagram users. image captionData scientist David Stier is concerned that complete strangers can contact children using their emails and mobile numbers on Instagram The same personal information was also contained in the HTML source code of web pages accessed when using Instagram on a computer, meaning that it could be "scraped" by hackers. Mr Stier reported his findings to Facebook, but he wrote in a Medium blog that Instagram had refused to mask the email addresses and phone numbers for business accounts. However, Facebook did decide to remove the contact information from the source code of Instagram pages. Despite this, Mr Stier believes that hackers might have succeeded in stealing the personal information from Instagram's website, after it was revealed in May 2019 that contact details relating to 49 million users were stored online in an unguarded database owned by a firm in India. "Do we have a responsibility to keep kids' phone numbers and emails hidden so that strangers can't find them just by clicking a button?" wrote Mr Stier. "Speaking as a parent, I want to be assured that the experience Instagram offers to teens is as 'adult-overseen' as possible."
US election 2020: Early voting records smashed amid enthusiasm wave - BBC News
Huge numbers of voters are casting ballots with less than three weeks to go until the election.
Pieces of orbiting space junk set for very close pass - BBC News
Two bits of discarded Russian and Chinese space hardware may pass within less than 25m of each other.
image copyrightGetty Images image captionThere is growing concern about the potential for more collisions in space (Artwork image) Two pieces of old space junk may come within 25m of each other, according to a Silicon Valley start-up which uses radars to track objects in orbit. LeoLabs has been monitoring the paths of a defunct Russian satellite and a discarded Chinese rocket segment. It sees them converging over Antarctica at 00:56 GMT (01:56 BST) on Thursday. Other experts who've looked at the available data think Kosmos-2004 and the ChangZheng rocket stage will pass with a far greater separation. With a combined mass at over 2.5 tonnes and relative velocity of 14.66km/s (32,800mph), any collision would be catastrophic and produce a shower of debris. And given the altitude of almost 1,000km, the resulting fragments would stay around for an extremely long time, posing a threat to operational satellites. Neither Kosmos-2004, which was launched in 1989, nor the ChangZheng rocket stage, launched in 2009, can be moved. So, there is no possibility to influence the event. LeoLabs offers orbital mapping services using its own radar network. Data from the most recent event updates show miss distance of 25 meters (+/- 18 meters at 1-sigma uncertainty). We will gather observation data tonight from the first radar pass after TCA to hopefully confirm no new debris is detected. — LeoLabs, Inc. (@LeoLabs_Space) October 15, 2020 Dr Moriba Jah, an astrodynamicist at the University of Texas at Austin, has worked out the miss distance to be about 70m. And the Aerospace Corporation, a highly respected consultancy, comes to a similar conclusion. With more and more satellites being launched, there's certainly growing concern about the potential for collisions. The big worry is the burgeoning population of redundant hardware in orbit - some 900,000 objects larger than 1cm by some counts - and all of it capable of doing immense damage to, or even destroying, an operational spacecraft in a high-velocity encounter. This week, the European Space Agency released its annual State of the Space Environment report. It highlighted the ongoing problem of fragmentation events. These include explosions in orbit caused by left-over energy - in fuel and batteries - aboard old spacecraft and rockets. On average over the last two decades, 12 accidental fragmentations have occurred in space every year - "and this trend is unfortunately increasing", the agency said. Also this week, at the online International Astronautical Congress, a group of experts listed what they regarded as the 50 most concerning derelict objects in orbit. A large proportion of them were old Russian, or Soviet-era, Zenit rocket stages.
Covid-19: New three-tier restrictions come into force in England - BBC News
Most of the country is in the lowest tier but millions in the North and the Midlands face extra curbs.
- Only essential work and travel would be allowed and everyone who can work from home should do so
- Non-essential offices should be closed
- Household mixing should be restricted to one household except for those who have formed support bubbles
- UK Parliament should "move to remote working"
Karabakh war leaves civilians shell-shocked and bitter - BBC News
Shelling stokes civilian anger in the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, say BBC reporters on both sides.
image copyrightGetty Images image captionGanja, Azerbaijan after a huge explosion: Civilians are suffering on both sides The decades-old Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in the Caucasus is no longer frozen. Armenia and Azerbaijan are engaged in the heaviest clashes since the 1990s, despite Russian mediation efforts. Azerbaijan says retaking the disputed territory is unfinished business - it is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan. The Armenians say Nagorno-Karabakh was historically Armenian for centuries. BBC correspondents Orla Guerin and Steve Rosenberg found bitterness and patriotic fervour among civilians on both sides. The tree-lined main street of Ganja, Azerbaijan's second-largest city, was bathed in morning sunlight and carpeted in glass. Just behind it a cluster of apartment blocks had been ripped open like tin cans. Ganja lies 100km (62 miles) from the frontlines of Nagorno-Karabakh, but on Sunday - the first full day of a shaky ceasefire - that wasn't far enough. Azerbaijan accused Armenia of firing a ballistic missile at a residential part of Ganja. Armenia accused Baku of shelling civilians. media captionOrla Guerin on the scene of the blast in Ganja: "It looks more like all-out war than ceasefire" We found 60-year-old Nushabe Haiderova in her headscarf and slippers, with a cardigan over her night clothes. Her arms were slack with shock. "This is how I ran out, with only what I was wearing," she said. "We barely escaped. It was horrible." We picked our way through the debris in her damaged home, to the bedroom where her grandchildren had been sleeping. Their injuries were minor. But now a new generation - on both sides - is being scarred by this decades-old conflict. At times it feels like a mirror image. image captionNushabe in the debris of her home in Ganja "Armenians should leave peacefully," she said. "We don't want war. We just want to free our own motherland." People here view Nagorno-Karabakh as a missing piece of their territory. That is both an article of faith and a well-rehearsed national narrative, which has the backing of the international community. At 22 years old, Ihtiyar Rasulov has never set foot in the disputed mountain region. But the clean-shaven young man, with a boy-band look, says he's ready to die to get it back. When we met in Azerbaijan's capital, Baku, he had just signed up to fight. "I am ready to fight for my nation and my motherland with my soul and my blood," he said earnestly. "My father, my mother and my grandfather lived in those areas. My brother is fighting right now." Ihtiyar lives in a rundown housing complex teeming with families who fled Nagorno-Karabakh, and surrounding areas, during the war in the early 1990s. He has been raised on the folk memory of lost land, atrocities and historic enmity with Armenia. It has been bred in the bone. That goes for many here. "Karabakh is Azerbaijan," he said. "Armenians came there and they did a lot of bad things to our nation. Of course, I haven't witnessed it, but I have heard about it." He also said he agreed with whatever Azerbaijan's President, Ilham Aliyev, had to say. In this tightly controlled country - where the presidency was passed from father to son - you hear that a lot. One of Ihtiyar's neighbours rushed to show me his veteran's identity card. Asef Haqverdiyev, balding and animated, fought in the war for Nagorno-Karabakh last time around. "I am 51 now," he said, "and I am ready to die for my country. "I have sent my own son to the war, and he is fighting at the border. Even if my family dies, even if everyone dies, we are not willing to give one inch of our land." We got a similar message from a grandmother in the frontline city of Terter. Despite rounds of shelling back and forth, Aybeniz Djaffarava refused to leave, though she did move underground. We found her in a makeshift shelter with several relatives, including her six-month old grandson Fariz, cradled in her arms. "We have been waiting for this for 28 years," she told me, smiling in the half light. "We are very excited about what's happening. My son and daughter are fighting on the frontline. We are staying in the shelter to wait for victory day and move to our land." Few here expect the Russian-brokered ceasefire to last. Many don't want it to. Their troops have already recovered some areas alongside Nagorno-Karabakh. They have been primed for a victory on the battlefield and want their president to stick to his guns. In the hills overlooking Stepanakert, Ashot Agajanyan invites me into his house. Or what's left of it. The living room is strewn with broken glass and bits of ceiling that have fallen down. Shrapnel has shredded his brand-new sofa. The kitchen and bathroom have been blown apart. image captionAshot Agajanyan's home was wrecked by a missile Ashot's house was struck by a long-range missile, fired he believes from Azerbaijan. We find fragments in the garden. He says the attack happened after the official ceasefire had come into effect. Fortunately, Ashot and his son were in their cellar at the time. That saved them. But the house Ashot built with his own hands has been ripped apart. I ask Ashot if he thinks Armenians and Azerbaijanis can ever live in peace. He shakes his head. "Never." Air raid sirens echo across Stepanakert several times a day, prompting residents to rush for cover. Sergei Avanisyan was in his local shelter - in the basement of his apartment block - when he heard a deafening explosion. "The whole building shook," Sergei recalls. When he emerged, he saw a giant crater metres from his house. The building opposite had been reduced to rubble. The blast was so powerful, it had sent pieces of the road flying into the air. image captionLong-range missile debris lies in a street in Stepanakert One giant chunk of asphalt landed on the roof of Sergei's block of flats. He accuses Azerbaijan's closest ally, Turkey, of fuelling the war and encouraging the violence. To counter that, many in Nagorno-Karabakh want Russia to side openly with Armenia and provide military support. Sergei doesn't believe that will happen. "I used to respect [President Vladimir] Putin," he says, "but he betrayed us long ago. "He does business with Turkey. He's building them a nuclear power station. What Putin needs to realise is that if we're destroyed, the whole of the Caucasus and southern Russia will end up under Turkish rule. If we die, so will Russia." media captionSteve Rosenberg speaks to ethnic Armenians under fire in Nagorno-Karabakh To the ethnic Armenians who form the majority in Nagorno-Karabakh - or "Artsakh" as Armenians call it - this land has been their home for generations. But Karabakh has a spiritual and emotional significance for Armenians further afield. In a Stepanakert cafe I meet Ara Shanlian. Ara lives in Los Angeles, but he is of Armenian descent. When he heard Nagorno-Karabakh was under attack, he rushed here to show solidarity. "I had to come," Ara tells me. "Whatever I can do, whatever I can give to my land, and my people, that's what I want to do." image copyrightGetty Images image captionStepanakert: Some Armenians are sheltering in churches From the people I've talked to here, it's clear that emotions are running high. It feels there is little appetite for compromise. "After so many aggressions against Artsakh, Azerbaijan has abandoned any moral right to claim that it belongs to Azerbaijan," Robert Avetisyan tells me. Nagorno-Karabakh appointed him its permanent representative in the US. But I meet Robert in Stepanakert. I point out there has been violence on both sides. Azerbaijani civilians were killed in Ganja, an attack Baku blames on Armenia. "The same day five long-range missiles hit Stepanakert causing casualties," replies Robert. "And a few days before that, around 100 missiles hit all sections of the town. We never target civilian infrastructure. Ganja had military infrastructure." "But the residential block that was hit in Ganja wasn't a military target." "I don't know," Robert responds. "I'm just saying. We have never intentionally targeted objects of non-military importance."
US Election 2020: Anthony Fauci says Trump campaign ad quote misleading - BBC News
The ad appears to show Dr Anthony Fauci praising Donald Trump, but he is talking about his own work.
Image copyrightReutersImage caption The clip appeared to show Dr Fauci talking about President Trump, but he was talking about himself Top US government scientist Anthony Fauci has said an edited clip of him used in a Trump campaign ad is misleading. It shows Dr Fauci saying he "can't imagine that anybody could be doing more" to fight Covid-19, suggesting he is speaking about President Trump. However, Dr Fauci was talking about himself and other medical officials. The infectious diseases expert has previously clashed with Mr Trump over how to handle the pandemic. "In my nearly five decades of public service, I have never publicly endorsed any political candidate," he said, in a statement sent to AFP news agency. "The comments attributed to me without my permission in the GOP campaign ad were taken out of context from a broad statement I made months ago about the efforts of federal public health officials," Dr Fauci added. The 30-second campaign ad declares "President Trump is recovering from the coronavirus, and so is America", before playing the clip of Dr Fauci. However, in the original footage of Dr Fauci, which came from an interview the epidemiologist did with Fox News in March, he says: "I have been devoting almost full time on this. I'm down at the White House virtually every day with the task force. It's every single day. So, I can't imagine that under any circumstances that anybody could be doing more." In response, Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said: "These are Dr Fauci's own words. The video is from a nationally broadcast television interview in which Dr Fauci was praising the work of the Trump administration. The words spoken are accurate, and directly from Dr Fauci's mouth." President Trump also defended the use of the clip, tweeting: "They are indeed Dr Fauci's own words. We have done a 'phenomenal' job, according to certain governors." This comes days after Dr Fauci criticised the White House for hosting a gathering last month that has been linked to an outbreak of Covid-19. He said the Rose Garden event on 26 September, held to unveil President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, was a "superspreader event". At least 11 people who attended later tested positive for the virus. Mr Trump also tested positive on 1 October, and was hospitalised for three days with the virus. Media captionFour Covid rules broken by Trump and the White House But last week doctors cleared him to hold public events, less than a month before he faces Democratic candidate Joe Biden in the presidential election. On Monday the Trump campaign is planning a big rally in Sanford, Florida. Mr Trump has expressed scepticism about measures such as masks and lockdowns to combat the spread of Covid-19, which has killed more than 213,000 people in the US. He has talked up the prospects of a vaccine becoming available, although researchers say this is unlikely to happen before next year at the earliest. Polling suggests Mr Biden has a single-digit lead over Mr Trump and an ABC News/Ipsos poll found that just 35% of Americans approved of how Mr Trump has handled the crisis. As many as 34 White House aides and other contacts have tested positive for Covid-19 in recent days, according to US media, many of them linked to the 26 September event. On Friday, the Minnesota Department of Health said nine infections had been tied to Mr Trump's 18 September campaign rally in the state. At least one person was infectious when they attended, officials say, and two cases have led to hospital admissions, with one of those people in intensive care.
UK economy: Shoppers aid growth but slowdown ahead, says report - BBC News
The UK economy may have grown by as much as 17% in the three months to September, says a forecaster.
Image copyrightGetty Images The UK economy may have grown by as much as 17% in the three months to the end of September, says the EY Item Club, but slower growth may follow. Shoppers splurged during the period as coronavirus lockdown restrictions were lifted, it said. It is a rosier vision than the one offered by Item Club economists in the summer, but they warned that growth for the rest of 2020 would be far slower. Growth for the final three months will be 1% or less, they predicted. "The UK economy has done well to recover faster than expected so far," said Howard Archer, chief economic adviser to the EY Item Club. "Consumer spending has bounced back strongly, while housing sector activity has also seen a pick-up, in part thanks to the stamp duty holiday." The economy probably grew 16-17% in the third quarter of the year compared with the second quarter, it said. It had been expecting growth of 12%. While government help such as the furlough programme has provided "much-needed support", growth will now begin to fade, said Mr Archer. The end of the furlough scheme, under which workers had part of their salary paid by the government, will mean higher unemployment and sluggish growth, said the forecasters, who use a similar economic model to the Treasury. That said, the UK economy is now predicted to regain its pre-pandemic size in the second half of 2023. Back in July, the EY Item Club did not expect that to happen until late 2024. Official figures from the Office for National Statistics showed last week that The UK economy continued its recovery in August, growing by 2.1% in the month, as the Eat Out to Help Out scheme boosted restaurants. It was, however, smaller than economists had estimated and helped drag down the estimated pace of recovery for the year. As with any economic forecast, there are factors which could speed up or slow down the recovery, the economists said. A vaccine is likely to help the economy, but there are more likely threats to growth than there are surprise boosts. Factors that could weigh down growth include a drop in consumer spending, more lockdown measures, slow Brexit negotiations between the UK and the EU and a spike in unemployment. "The latest forecast also notes that, even if further virus outbreaks are contained and major restrictions on economic activity are avoided, consumers and businesses could remain cautious in their behaviour for an extended period," the report said. The Club's estimates assume a simple free trade agreement with the EU by the end of the year. Without an agreement, growth of 4.8% is forecast in 2021, down from 6%, while growth in 2022 would be cut to 2.6% from 2.9%.
Covid virus ‘survives for 28 days’ in lab conditions - BBC News
Researchers find SARS-Cov-2 survives for longer than thought - but only under certain conditions.
image copyrightGetty Images image captionThese results highlight the need to wash hands as well as touchscreens regularly The virus responsible for Covid-19 can remain infectious on surfaces such as banknotes, phone screens and stainless steel for 28 days, researchers say. The findings from Australia's national science agency suggest SARS-Cov-2 can survive for far longer than thought. However, the experiment was conducted in the dark. UV light has already been shown to kill the virus. Some experts have also thrown doubt on the actual threat posed by surface transmission in real life. The coronavirus is mostly transmitted when people cough, sneeze or talk. But there is also evidence that it can also be spread by particles hanging in the air. It is also possible someone could get Covid-19 by touching infected surfaces such as metal or plastic, according to the US Centers for Disease Control. This is believed to be much less common, however. Previous laboratory tests have found that SARS-Cov-2 can survive for two to three days on bank notes and glass, and up to six days on plastic and stainless steel, although results vary. However, the research from Australian agency CSIRO found the virus was "extremely robust," surviving for 28 days on smooth surfaces such as glass found on mobile phone screens and both plastic and paper banknotes, when kept at 20C (68F), which is about room temperature, and in the dark. In comparison, the flu virus can survive in the same circumstances for 17 days. The study, published in Virology Journal, also found SARS-Cov-2 survived for less time at hotter temperatures than cooler temperatures; it stopped being infectious within 24 hours at 40C on some surfaces. It also stayed longer on smooth, non-porous surfaces than on porous materials such as cloth, which was found not to carry any infectious virus past 14 days. Prof Ron Eccles, former director Common Cold Centre at Cardiff University, criticised the study and said the suggestion that the virus could survive for 28 days was causing "unnecessary fear in the public". "Viruses are spread on surfaces from mucus in coughs and sneezes and dirty fingers and this study did not use fresh human mucus as a vehicle to spread the virus," he said. "Fresh mucus is a hostile environment for viruses as it contains lots of white cells that produce enzymes to destroy viruses and can also contain antibodies and other chemicals to neutralise viruses. "In my opinion infectious viruses will only persist for hours in mucus on surfaces rather than days." In a paper published by the Lancet in July, Emanuel Goldman, professor of microbiology at Rutgers University, said "the chance of transmission through inanimate surfaces is very small". He said studies that suggested a significant risk had been designed with "little resemblance to real-life scenarios". Last week Monica Gandhi, a professor of medicine at the University of California, said the coronavirus did not spread via surfaces. Covid-19 spreads primarily through the air. Studies have shown that the virus can remain infectious in airborne particles for more than three hours. What's less certain is the degree to which it can spread via surfaces such as banknotes and touchscreens. Previous studies have assessed its survivability on stainless steel and their results have varied wildly, ranging from between three and 14 days at room temperature. The new study looked at how long the virus could survive on glass, paper and plastic notes as well as steel. They found that they could detect it after 28 days on all these surfaces at 20C - significantly longer than the earlier studies had indicated. The experiments were, however, carried out in virus friendly conditions - in a dark room with stable temperatures and humidity - so the virus may well not do so well in the real world. Even so, these results highlight the need to wash hands as well as touchscreens regularly and to avoid touching one's face in order to minimise the risk of infection. "Establishing how long the virus really remains viable on surfaces enables us to more accurately predict and mitigate its spread, and do a better job of protecting our people," said CSIRO chief executive Dr Larry Marshall. The study's authors said the ability of SARS-Cov-2 to persist on stainless steel at cooler temperatures could explain outbreaks of Covid-19 at meat processing and cold storage facilities. Thousands of workers have tested positive at meat processing factories and abattoirs around the world. Other reasons previously suggested include close working conditions, cold and damp environments and the need to shout over noisy machinery. The CSIRO researchers also say their findings support previous research suggesting the virus can survive on fresh and frozen food. The World Health Organization says: "There is currently no confirmed case of Covid-19 transmitted through food or food packaging." But it does list a number of precautions you can take to avoid cross-contamination.