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How to travel during a coronavirus epidemic without health risks

With the proliferation of coronavirus, some governments have limited travel to different modes of transport. But where there is no quarantine, travelers have to take their own precautions, writes with the BBC.

Photo: Shutterstock

Here are some tips on how to fly safely, ride on trains, and use public transportation during an epidemic.

Trains and buses

How Covid-19 is distributed is not yet fully known. But it seems that viruses enter the body by airborne droplets from coughing or sneezing of an infected person, as well as through objects that the patient touched.

On the subject: Where to board an airplane so as not to become infected with a coronavirus or other infection

We believe that coronavirus probably does not stay in the air like the flu, therefore, infection occurs with close contact of people.

The British National Health Service defines "close contact" as being 2 meters away from an infected person for more than 15 minutes.

Thus, the risk of infection in trains and buses depends on how crowded they are and will differ in different regions of the country and on different routes.

In the London Underground with a high passenger density, you can get respiratory infections.

A study by Dr. Lara Gosse of the World Health Institute showed a connection between metro use and increased flu symptoms.

“Passengers who have to change from one line to another get sick more with SARS than those who get to their destination in one trip,” the specialist notes.

However, if you are traveling in a relatively empty train or bus, the risk will be less. It is also important what kind of ventilation is in the vehicle and how much time you spend in it.

Cleaning also plays a role. The British railway company Network Rail said that if necessary it will introduce additional specialized cleaning stations and trains.

Gosse advises to “avoid rush hours if possible” and choose routes with the minimum number of changes.

Now the UK government does not prohibit people from using public transport.

David Nabarro, the World Health Organization's (WHO) special adviser on coronavirus, told the BBC that while transport is of course crowded, “quick contact” between passengers is not yet “the main source of transmission of the virus”.


It is widely believed that in an airplane due to poor ventilation the risk of contracting is higher. In fact, the air in an airplane is of better quality than in most offices and is almost certainly better than in a bus.

Although the density of passengers per square meter in an airplane is higher, the air in it is cleared more intensively.

Researchers studying air quality in various vehicles estimate that air in an aircraft is completely replaced every 2-3 minutes, and for example, in an air-conditioned building, every 10-12 minutes.

Air in the air is cleaned with a high-performance air filter that holds much less particles than conventional air conditioners.

This filter draws in fresh air from the outside and mixes it with the cleaned air in the cabin. Thus, at any moment, half of the air in the plane is fresh, and half is recirculated. Whereas in most conventional air conditioners, all air is recirculated to save energy.

In addition to the airway, the coronavirus can also be transmitted through the surface of, for example, the palm of an infected person or the door handle.

Vicky Herzberg of Emory University in the US took surface samples on 2018 transcontinental flights in 10 and found that they were all “just like in your living room.”

However, it is quite difficult to accurately calculate the risks for any type of transport, since there are many other factors. For example, on long-haul flights, passengers move more in the cabin, and if they have a virus, the risk of its spread is higher.

According to the WHO, the high-risk zone is two rows in front, behind or next to an infected person. But during the 2003 Sars outbreak on the plane where the passenger was infected, 45% of those who fell ill sat far away from him.

On the subject: Chinese coronavirus: is it worth wearing a mask on an airplane and how not to get infected while traveling

The recommendations remain the same - wash your hands, treat the surface where possible, sneeze and cough into a tissue.

The main problem with air travel is that they move potential carriers of the virus from one part of the world to another.

Cruise liners

Cruise ships caught the eye after being quarantined off the coast of Japan in February.

The second cruise ship, the Grand Princess, was detained off California. Dozens of its 3500 passengers were tested for coronavirus.

On cruise ships there are much more people in a limited space. And they are there much longer than in an airplane.

The air conditioning systems of cruise ships also mix the outside air with the inside, but they do not filter particles smaller than 5000 nanometers, experts explain.

During the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak in 2003, the infected particles had a diameter of 120 nanometers and were able to move freely through the air conditioning system on board the ship.

This can be avoided if recycling is discarded and only external air is used.

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