How safe is the plane flight in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic?
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Since the pandemic began with the new coronavirus, the first severely affected industries have been aviation and tourism. The decision has been made to limit the movement of people as much as possible worldwide. The idea was that the spread of a virus could be slowed down if people did not travel.
Apparently this idea was logical, it turned out in the end that the spread of the pandemic could not be stopped or slowed down. While aviation and tourism have been eroded and financial losses amount to billions of dollars globally, people have continued to travel, to move at the level of regions, areas, counties and even countries. They may not have traveled much for tourism, but there were other reasons for the trips.
They did not fly, but traveled by personal car, train, minibus, bus or other means of transport. They crowded in cars, spent hours in customs without taking into account social distance. We remind you of the images from March - April with the borders of Romania full of thousands of people crowded through epidemiological filters.
Why did they block the flights, but left the means of land transport free?
And from the beginning we wondered why they blocked flights, but left the means of land transport free? A question that has not received a logical answer to this day, especially since it has been shown that the plane is the safest means of transport during the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been shown that the virus is also transmitted if you spend too much time with an infected person. In this context, is it safer to sit for tens of hours in a bus with 50 passengers, without too much comfort or to fly by plane in 1-2-3 hours and with a little more safety and comfort? You give the answer!
Regarding the safety of the flight, we do not say it, but it is demonstrated by the studies, the aircraft manufacturers and even millions of flights operated in the last 3 months. The WHO has half-heartedly acknowledged that the plane is a safe means of transport, but does not guarantee 100% that the virus cannot be transmitted. The same can be said about trains, buses, cars. Nothing is 100% sure. And yet some were left in circulation without special measures.
During the lockdown period, thousands of repatriation flights were operated, some even from severely affected areas. Infected passengers were transported along with healthy people and the virus did not spread. Following epidemiological investigations, it was shown that the spread was very small, at most perimeter in the area of the infected person. But not all people were infected that way.
In 2018, researchers at Emory University in Atlanta conducted a study to show if and how people can become infected on a plane. The aim was the ease and speed with which an infectious disease can spread. And the result was surprising. "Infectious respiratory disease can spread up to 1 meter around an infected person. Thus, the transmission is limited to at most one row in front and one row behind the sick one. "
During the SARS and MERS pandemics, there were cases with infected passengers on the plane, outside the patient's area. The researchers concluded that without the minimum preventative measures, some passengers could have reached the contaminated areas and thus became infected. But the virus certainly did not travel long distances on the plane. And here are the air filtration systems and the way it circulates through the plane. As I have written on other occasions, 99.97% are filtered and sterile in the air. At the same time, he is refreshed for 3 minutes.
Airbus confirms that the A350 changes all the air in the cabin every 2-3 minutes; similar periods are also recorded on the Boeing 787 and other models. And in addition to air filtration, the planes have regular sanitation, disinfection and sterilization. All the more so in this period.
Also keep in mind that vertical air curtains are created in the plane. The air does not circulate horizontally in the plane. Anyone who has flown a plane knows that there are holes above the head through which the air is pushed hard towards the floor.
"The air flows vertically. It is blown over the head and evacuated under the feet of each passenger. So a front-row passenger, for example, cannot contaminate someone in line 20 "But is that enough?" This regular flow of air, from top to bottom, can be disrupted by passengers leaving their seats on their backs or by cabin crew members and even passengers moving in the aisle, thus changing the path of any airborne particle. To prevent these disturbances, it was limited as much as possible to travel by plane
At the same time, during the flight, all passengers face the direction of travel, which greatly limits the interaction, and the backrests of the seats can play the role of screens. To which we add the mandatory masks and we can already say that the percentage of infection has been greatly reduced.
No empty seat between passengers is required
Experts in the field also say that the empty seat between passengers is not necessary. IATA has mentioned since the beginning of the pandemic that there is no need for physical distance between passengers because there are many other protection systems. And the empty seat would not reduce the risk of infection, but would help increase the fare of the plane ticket. There are also virologists who do not agree with the ones mentioned by IATA. But just to prevent, additional hygiene and protection measures are being taken on board aircraft.
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO / ICAO) - the UN body responsible for aviation - has made comprehensive recommendations to airlines and airports:
- The mask must be worn at all times at the airport, throughout the verification / embarkation / disembarkation process and during the flight. Must be changed every 4 hours of flight.
- Passengers to travel by plane only in order to go to the toilet. Ideally, passengers should sit in seats for as long as possible during the flight.
- Queues at boarding / disembarking and toilets should be avoided.
- Aircraft must be sanitized frequently. And on long flights, passengers should frequently sanitize their hands.
If we listen to the specialists in the field, we can say that the plane is the fastest and safest means of transport during the COVID-19 pandemic, but only in the conditions in which the passengers also comply with all the prevention norms that we have listed above. . No one can guarantee 100% protection. But every measure taken against the spread of the virus contributes to a safe flight.
I hope I've answered the most common question among those who want to fly. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to leave them in the form of comments on this article.