COVID-19 could remain viable in the dark for at least 90 minutes if produced within small-particle aerosols, according to research by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL).
COVID-19 is caused by the coronavirus and has killed more than 43,000 people in the UK and hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.
It is spread through small droplets from the nose or mouth of an infected person.
Coughing and sneezing generally produce large particles of saliva, but smaller particles are also produced during routine activities such as talking and breathing.
According to the research, smaller aerosol particles could stay buoyant in the air for longer - at least 90 minutes in the dark, travel further and get further into the respiratory tract when inhaled.
The findings by DSTL support scientific advice provided to the Government and will help experts understand how the virus behaves within healthcare environments.
Forces News recently gained special access to the DSTL facility at Porton Down on Salisbury Plain.
The laboratory carries out some of the most highly-classified work and is one of the country's most capable facilities when handling dangerous pathogens.
Scientists handle COVID-19 cultures in sealed glove boxes and the laboratory is kept under negative air pressure to prevent the escape of the virus.
The DSTL's research paper has also been shared with the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), which has been advising the Government throughout the pandemic.
Tim Atkins, senior scientist at DSTL, said: "These scientific findings will contribute to international scientific understanding of the virus, and therefore help to resolve this global crisis.
"The more scientific research undertaken across the world, the more enriched the understanding of how coronavirus behaves.
"This will be critical moving forward to ensuring we give the best advice to people on how to stay safe."
The research paper is called 'Experimental aerosol survival of SARS-CoV-2 in artificial saliva and tissue culture media at medium and high humidity'.
It has been published through the Emerging Microbes And Infections journal.
Cover image: PA.