A female passenger flying on a long-haul flight in business class walked through the cabin and unknowingly infected 15 people.
The passenger infected 15 others on a 10-hour long-haul flight to Vietnam. She passed the virus to 12 passengers in business class, two in the economy and a crew member. The unidentified woman, 27, unknowingly spread the virus back in March but authorities have only recently decided to release the report for fear of causing further panic to travellers.
“The risk for on-board transmission of SARS-CoV-2 during long flights is real and has the potential to cause COVID-19 clusters of substantial size, even in business class–like settings with spacious seating arrangements well beyond the established distance used to define close contact on aeroplanes.” the report adds.
She was seated in business class and continued to experience the sore throat and cough throughout the flight’, the report in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases states. Days later the 27-year-old businesswoman tested positive for coronavirus.
The Odds of Catching COVID on a Flight Are Slim
Despite the known dangers of crowded, enclosed spaces, planes have not been the sites of so-called superspreading events, at least so far. If you decide to fly, the odds that you will pick up COVID-19 are low, according to one expert analysis.
That’s not to say flying is perfectly safe — safety is relative and subjective. But as restrictions continue to change, the only way to move forward through this long pandemic is to start thinking in terms of risk-benefit ratios. Very little is without risk, but perhaps some risks — such as flying — are small enough to warrant taking.
Arnold Barnett, a professor of management science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has been trying to quantify the odds of catching Covid-19 from flying. He’s factored in a bunch of variables, including the odds of being seated near someone in the infectious stage of the disease, and the odds that the protection of masks (now required on most flights) will fail.
He’s accounted for the way air is constantly renewed in aeroplane cabins, which experts say makes it very unlikely you’ll contract the disease from people who aren’t in your immediate vicinity — your row, or, to a lesser extent, the person across the aisle, the people ahead of you or the people behind you.
What Barnett came up with was that we have about a 1/4300 chance of getting Covid-19 on a full 2-hour flight — that is, about 1 in 4300 passengers will pick up the virus, on average. The odds of getting the virus are about half that, 1/7700 if airlines leave the middle seat empty.
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