Covid-19: what are the infection risks in public transit?

Published by Alexandre G. · Photos by Alexandre G. · Published on 6 November 2020 at 11h56 · Updated on 6 November 2020 at 18h45
Mandatory facemasks, antigenic tests in airports and railway stations… Life in public transit is going on despite the virus. Yet, in our trains and buses, like in any other closed place, there are Covid-19 infection risks. Studies tend to reassure, but remind us how important it is to wear your facemask or cover indoors.

Can you catch Covid-19 in public transit? Like anywhere else, there is a risk. But, it is less risky than we think in buses, metros and other trains and planes, that we all take. This is what a study by the Oxford Academic says, released this summer 2020, saying that the probability to catch coronavirus in public transit is close to 0.32%.

Of course, we can guess this statistic will please Minister of Transport Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, who has been saying over and over again to the government’s detractors that the public transit is no clusters. And Santé Publique France’s data cannot say otherwise: according to their data, public transit only represents 1% of the clusters reported in France. But experts from the health organization are doubting about these results and warn against the probability of this percentage is underestimated, more likely around 10% contaminations. A low percentage of clusters, but with a crucial viral impact.

Yet, the study lead by the British Land Transport Security agrees and says there is a minimum risk of contamination on board. According to their results, the number of passengers infected is usually around 1 in 11,000 even though scientists admit they often have to update their results, depending on the virus circulation rate. In Marseille, paramedics have been tracking contamination traces in trains, under seats and bars. A few remains of the virus on the bar, but nothing to draw a conclusion as of the contamination.

Thus, to better grasp the process of contamination in public transit, you better know how to comply with the health guidelines implemented on board. A Chinese study released in September proved that twenty passengers have been contaminated in a bus because of a defecting ventilation system, and a female infected with Covid-19. No facemasks or covers inside: facemask-wearing reduces contamination risks by 85%. Therefore, if someone has none, we can get it is outraging.

In concrete words, we recommend – like scientists – to place yourselves in an almost risk-free area, naming an empty row, aired (with or without open windows), with a facemask. With this almost foolproof method, you can be safe.

Practical information

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