Landmark study shows Covid-19 exposure on commercial flights is ‘virtually non-existent’


Landmark study shows Covid-19 exposure on commercial flights is ‘virtually non-existent’.

RESEARCH carried out by US Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) using United aeroplanes, shows that when masks are worn, the risk of exposure to Covid-19 is “virtually non-existent”.

The study is the “most comprehensive on cabin airflow done to date”, and shows that when a passenger is wearing a mask and seated, on average only 0.003 per cent of infected air particles could enter their breathing zone – even when the plane is full.

During the six-month study, mannequins with and without face masks sat in various seats on the aircraft while fluorescent tracer particles were released at intervals of two seconds to simulate breathing for a minute. during ground and in-flight tests.

Real-time fluorescent particle sensors were placed throughout the aircraft at the breathing zone of passengers to measure concentration over time.

To make the situation even more realistic, thermal blankets were used to simulate bodily heat emission onboard.

The tests – more than 300 were carried out over 38 hours of flight time – revealed that the released aerosol was rapidly diluted by the “high air exchange rates observed and the time the aerosol tracer particles remained detectable within the cabin averaged less than six minutes”.

In comparison, a typical home takes around 90 minutes to clear these types of particles from the air, said Ustranscam.

“The high air exchange coupled with (HEPA) filtration of all recirculated air, means a commercial aircraft’s air supply system provides protection greater than the design standards for a patient isolation room or a hospital operating room.”

HEPA filters seemingly trap more than 99.9 per of viruses and bacteria aboard an aircraft, “creating a healthier environment”, said Aerospace Industries.

“While the tests did have some limitations, specifically it only considered a single infected passenger and did not attempt to gather data reflecting passenger movement about the cabin, the results are encouraging,” said Cmdr. Joe Pope.

He added: “This data will help us develop strategies for cabin loading and seating configurations to mitigate potential risk of person-to-person transmission of the aerosol particles.”

Fear of Covid and quarantine measures have seen Spanish airports experience an 80 per cent slump in passenger numbers.

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Published by
Tara Rippin

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