Good news for those who continue to travel by plane during the pandemic: the risk of contracting COVID-19 during an air flight is much lower than in a supermarket, train or office. All thanks to powerful ventilation systems in aircraft and seat backs, which create an additional barrier.
Experts from associations of aviation medicine from the United States and Switzerland have published encouraging data that during a pandemic, aircraft are perhaps the safest place. To date, only 42 cases of coronavirus infection during air travel are known worldwide. For comparison, in China, from mid-December to the end of February, more than 2,300 cases of passenger infection were detected on intercity high-speed trains.
The authors of the article describe in detail the mechanism of action of an aircraft ventilation system, which drives air through filters of the same type as used in surgical operating rooms. Most of the air that passengers breathe is renewed by the outboard air, and circulation of a relatively small flow between the rows reduces the likelihood of infection spreading. An additional barrier is the high backs of the seats, in addition, due to the specifics of the seating, passengers do not sit on top of each other and communicate less.
This article provides recommendations for improving airport and aircraft security. In particular, it is proposed to minimize the movement of passengers, adjust the time of serving food and drinks to reduce contacts.
“In cases where it is impossible to maintain physical distance, the risk of infection on board can be reduced by wearing masks,” the authors write. Experts noted that the feasibility of testing passengers and crew for COVID-19 before the flight is currently being studied.
The authors also made several recommendations for airline passengers. In addition to the obvious tips to wear a mask and avoid traveling when you feel unwell, there is a new life hack: immediately after landing, turn on the individual ventilation nozzle located above the seat and adjust it so that the air flow is directed towards your head. Keep it on at all times during the flight. The air currents above your head will be able to "disperse" the virus particles in the event that a person near you is infected.