Can the coronavirus be eliminated by microwaving?
What happens to the virus when it is frozen?

This is part 22 of our coronavirus FAQ. Click here to read other installments: #Coronavirus the facts. Find the latest information and answers from experts on everything COVID-19.

If the virus is present on food packaging, can it be eliminated in the microwave?

Microwave ovens use electromagnetic waves to spin water molecules within food to heat it up.

Professor Sugawara Erisa at Tokyo Healthcare University Postgraduate School, an expert on infection prevention, says food itself is safe to eat if it is warmed up sufficiently in a microwave oven.

But she points out that microwave ovens don’t always heat up the package surface enough. So, it is unknown if any virus present on packaging loses its infectious capacity. Sugawara says it is important to wash hands frequently before and after cooking and eating.

This information is accurate as of June 18, 2020.

What happens to the virus when it is frozen?

Sugawara says that international studies on the SARS virus, another type of coronavirus, have already been carried out, although much remains unknown about the characteristics of the new coronavirus.

According to one study, the SARS virus was killed off in a short period of time when tested in an environment with a relatively high temperature of 56 degrees Celsius. But it can survive for about three weeks at a temperature of minus 80 degrees Celsius.

The study suggests the new coronavirus could be weak against heat while relatively strong in low temperature.

Sugawara says if, for example, the new coronavirus is found on the surface of groceries, it can be assumed to survive in the refrigerator and freezer for a long period. She advises to disinfect the outside wrapping of products before putting them in the refrigerator and freezer, and to wash hands before and after cooking. Sugawara says the food itself can be safely consumed if it is sufficiently heated up.

This information is accurate as of June 19, 2020.