Researchers in Hong Kong say that COVID-19 infection via the eyes is a greater risk because this strain is stronger than previous coronaviruses - but hand hygiene rather than protective eyewear still remains paramount.
Dr. Michael Chan, Associate Professor at Hong Kong University's School of Public Health told Euronews that COVID-19 is stronger than earlier coronaviruses like SARS.
Using tissue samples in their laboratory, the team established the greater risk of the virus infecting via the eye:
“We compared the new coronavirus with the SARS coronavirus in 2003. We found that the new coronavirus replicates to a much higher level than SARS, suggesting that the novel coronavirus can use the eye as a crossover entry to the human body.
"So the new coronavirus has one additional point of entry (to the body) apart from the respiratory tract, using the eye as a point of entry."
Professor Chan said that, despite the discovery, it was clean hands that still remain the most important consideration:
“Eye protection is useful, but at the end of the day, if your hands are dirty and you are rubbing your eyes, the most important thing is hand hygiene.
“Earlier research suggests the new coronavirus can survive for a while on surfaces, so your hands can become accidentally contaminated with the virus and (if) you (then) rub your eye with your hand, there is a higher chance of infection.
“So I would suggest that hand hygiene is probably more important than a protective eye device.”