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Research Points to low risk for COVID-19 transmission inflight

MANUFACTURER studies have provided an insight into ‘extremely few incidents’ of Covid-19 transmission in-flight.

Chaired by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), three aircraft manufacturers – Airbus, Boeing and Embraer – went through different simulations to show transmission of Covid-19 in-flight.

All simulations came to the same conclusion, that the risk of particle exposure for passengers is very low onboard aircraft.

Since the start of 2020 there have been 44 cases of COVID-19 reported in which transmission is thought to have been associated with a flight journey.

Dr. David Powell, IATA’s Medical Advisor, said: “The risk of a passenger contracting COVID-19 while onboard appears very low. With only 44 identified potential cases of flight-related transmission among 1.2 billion travellers, that’s one case for every 27 million travellers.

“We recognize that this may be an underestimate but even if 90 per cent of the cases were un-reported, it would be one case for every 2.7 million travellers. We think these figures are extremely reassuring. Furthermore, the vast majority of published cases occurred before the wearing of face coverings in-flight became widespread.”

While methodologies differed slightly, each detailed simulation confirmed that aircraft airflow systems do control the movement of particles in the cabin, limiting the spread of viruses.

Data from the simulations yielded similar results:

• Aircraft airflow systems, High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters, the natural barrier of the seatback, the downward flow of air, and high rates of air exchange efficiently reduce the risk of disease transmission on board in normal times.

• The addition of mask-wearing amid pandemic concerns adds a further and significant extra layer of protection, which makes being seated in close proximity in an aircraft cabin safer than most other indoor environments.

Mask-wearing on board was recommended by IATA in June and is a common requirement on most airlines.

This guidance adds multiple layers of protection on top of the airflow systems which already ensure a safe cabin environment with very low risks of in-flight transmission of disease.

Mr Powell added: “ICAO’s comprehensive guidance for safe air travel amid the COVID-19 crisis relies on multiple layers of protection, which involve the airports as well as the aircraft.

“Mask-wearing is one of the most visible. But managed queuing, contactless processing, reduced movement in the cabin, and simplified onboard services are among the multiple measures the aviation industry is taking…

Aaliyah Rugg

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