There is definite evidence of transmission of Covid 19 on flights, and whilst the risk may not be as high as initially feared, it’s good to look at current evidence to guide how we behave when flying.
There is equal evidence that transmission can happen before getting on a plane as well as afterwards. In fact the risk may be higher than on the plane itself, as airplanes use special HEPA filters which according to the literature, remove 99.9% of pathogens from circulating air every 2-3 minutes.
There is also increasing evidence that strict mask wearing can reduce transmission. Masks are now mandatory on all international flights entering Australia and also on any domestic flights. Masks are also mandatory for anyone entering Perth airport terminals (children under 12 are the exception) and this may become the practice in other airports, so best to check ahead.
With no current community transmission, the risk in Western Australia remains very low at the time of writing. However the risk of Covid-19 varies depending on which state or country you are travelling to.
What can we do to minimise the risk? Based on current thinking the following tips may help:
• As always follow strict hygiene measures
• Washing hands regularly or using alcohol based hand gels
• Practice physical distancing as much as possible
• Use contactless apps as much as possible
• Wear a mask to and from the airport, in the terminal as well as during the flight and after arrival. This can be a simple surgical mask but must fit well. Try and wear at all times and minimise touching your face or the front of the mask. For flights longer than 6 hours consider changing the mask during the flight. Aim not to touch the mask when doing this.
• Note some airlines may provide masks and some may not. Best to take your own. Carry more than one.
• Masks are not necessary in the following situations;
o for brief periods while eating, drinking, or taking medication;
o if unconscious, incapacitated, unable to be awakened, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance
o when necessary to temporarily remove the mask to verify one’s identity such as during Transportation Security Administration screening or when asked to do so by the ticket or gate agent or any law enforcement official
• Business class does not stop transmission from happening
• There have been cases of Covid-19 transmission when sitting in the same row or 2 seats in front or behind a proven case.
• Travellers at higher risk of complications of Covid-19 include older age, comorbidities (Diabetes, Heart & Lung disease, obese, smokers)
Most importantly don’t fly if you are unwell or have any symptoms of Covid 19
(including fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, loss of sense of smell or taste)
Many countries have introduced pre-flight Covid 19 testing. This can be organised through our clinic. Book an appointment here.