CORONAVIRUS AND TRANSPORT – how to stay safe
Planes, trains, taxis, buses and airports can be ideal environments for droplet-spread diseases such as COVID-19 to be transmitted between people. The COVID-19 virus is thought to be spread principally via droplets expelled when an infected person coughs or sneezes. People may directly inhale those droplets or droplets may land on shared surfaces. In transport systems it is near impossible to avoid touching shared surfaces. With a large amount of intermingling individuals, the potential for transmission is high. People catch the virus when they touch their infected hands to their face –something we all do about 20 to 30 times an hour.
BUS AND FERRY
To the extent possible, try to avoid traveling through mass transport systems at peak hours.
If you rely upon the bus to commute to the office, then talk to your supervisor about starting earlier or later to avoid periods, when these systems may be most congested. Consider taking a different bus, which may be less crowded.
When traveling on buses be conscious of the high touch areas such as those circled in red: specifically guards and door handles. While you need to use these for safety and practical reasons, try to avoid touching your face until you have had the opportunity to wash your hands. If possible, carry and use an alcohol based hand sanitizer while using public transport.
TAXI AND RIDE SHARING
Using taxis and ride sharing during a potential COVID-19 outbreak should be relatively safer than using public systems as the level of exposure to other travellers is much reduced. However there is still a risk from touching common surfaces such as door handles, seats, seatbelts, etc. If you can, sit directly behind the taxi driver as you will be less exposed to droplets should the driver cough or sneeze.
When moving through airports be aware of the high touch areas, which may harbour viruses, such as those highlighted to the right. These include luggage trays, finger-print scanners and cases on luggage carousels.
Security checks are thought to be the highest risk areas in airports. Avoid touching the trays, which often have lingering viruses and bacteria on them and wash/disinfect your hands after security check. Other hotspots include: Hand rails on escalators, arm rest of waiting area seats and the constant passing of tickets and passports to airline and security staff is also likely to present some risk. Bring and regularly use a container less than 100ml of alcohol based hand sanitiser, while passing through airports.
As you might be aware confined cabins of planes pose a risk of catching viruses – but mostly for the wrong reasons. Most studies suggest it is not the recycled cabin air that poses the greatest risk (it passes through sophisticated filters) but the droplets spread by passengers and cabin staff moving up and down the main aisles. A study by scientists at Emory University in the United States found that an infected air steward could become a ‘super-spreader’ as they constantly move up and own the plane. It concluded that the best place to sit was in the middle of the plane in a window seat to escape this particular risk. You enhance your chances of remaining free of infection by staying in your seat for the duration of the flight. If you can’t get a window seat, second best is a middle seat rather than an aisle.
WALK IF YOU CAN
Walking is likely to be safer than any other transport option, as it will probably be much less congested than the confined spaces of buses and planes. Regular exercise of at least 150 minutes a week also protects you from heart and other vascular disease – a much bigger risk to your health than coronavirus in the long run.