Low risk of Covid infection on planes if masks worn: US military

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WASHINGTON, Oct 15, 2020 (BSS/AFP) – The risk of being infected with the
coronavirus on an airliner is very low if passengers wear masks, according to
a study carried out aboard Boeing long-haul jets by the US military and
published Thursday.

Researchers using sensors and fluorescent tracers measured the volume of
airborne contagious matter emitted by a dummy simulating an infected person
breathing normally.

The passengers most exposed to the infected person — those just in front
of, behind or beside the dummy — were represented in the study by the
sensors.

Some 300 test rounds were carried out on the ground and in flight over the
course of eight straight days in August in cooperation with United Airlines
on Boeing 767 and 777 jetliners.

The study concluded that 99.7 percent of Covid contaminant particles were
eliminated by the sophisticated ventilation systems on the planes before they
reached the passengers seated closest to the dummy.

Expanding outward to the 40 seats closest to the infected person, the
elimination rate is 99.99 percent, the study said.

The results prompted US military transport officials to conclude that even
on a full plane, the level of transmission over 12 hours of flight was
negligible.

However, the tests only looked at a scenario involving a single infected
passenger. They also assumed that everyone on the plane wore a mask
continuously, and did not address a scenario in which an infected person
walks around the cabin of the plane.

“While the tests did have some limitations,” said Commander Joe Pope, the
US Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) operations directorate liaison for the
testing, “the results are encouraging.”

“For both the 777 and 767 airframes, the calculations show about 54 flight
hours are required for cumulative inhalation of an assumed infectious dose,”
Pope said.

The study was conducted by USTRANSCOM and the Defense Advanced Research
Projects Agency (DARPA).

Since the start of the pandemic, the US military has suspended most
movement of its troops and their families.