People from different countries come together, especially on international flights and at airports. Currently low case numbers in the country of origin are therefore no guarantee that other passengers will also come from countries with low case numbers. The seasons and thus also seasonal fluctuations in the number of infections differ greatly between countries. One example is South Africa, where it is currently autumn and after a summer with low case numbers, a fifth wave with variants BA.4 and BA.5 is building up. In this country, on the other hand, the number of cases is currently declining after a BA.1 and BA.2 wave.
Airports where many people from different nations meet are therefore also a “risk area” for the distribution of variants. Those who stay at the arrival airport for more than an hour increase their risk of infection fivefold compared to staying as short as possible. According to Hutter, the mask should also continue to be worn at the airport.
Higher risk seats
A case study of a 10-hour 2020 flight from Dubai to Australia shows that sitting a row in front of or behind an infected person increases the risk of infection by more than seven times – even when the mask is worn. According to the WHO, in the event of a suspected case of Covid, only the surrounding two rows of seats are considered direct contact persons.
On the ten-hour flight examined, 15 people contracted an infected person – despite the mask requirement for travelers at the time. Hutter: “The question is always how the mask is worn. It only protects if it fits well and is not put down. But on a ten-hour flight, people will certainly eat and drink, people move in the aisle, the mask might slip. “
Anyone who wants to eat or drink on longer flights should therefore not remove their mask at the same time as their immediate neighbors. Studies on the distribution of influenza viruses on airplanes also show that passengers who sit closer to the aisle are more likely to become infected. They have more contact with others than those who sit closer to the window, says Hutter.
In general, the risk of infection on the plane is low, as studies show. “However, as with other means of transport, it stands and falls with the mask,” says Hutter.