Catching coronavirus in public transportation is much less likely than ever feared, new data suggest.
Trains, buses and planes were identified as potential hotspots for Covid-19 by experts around the world at the onset of the crisis.
This is because Covid-19 thrives in closed interior spaces with little ventilation and a tightly packed crowd of people.
However, research shows that if the masks are worn and the social distance is respected, the risk of the virus spreading on public transport is minimal.
Contact-tracking studies of hundreds of Covid-19 clusters in France, Austria and Japan linked less than 1 percent of super-spreader events to public transport.
The risk of contracting the virus turned out to be much greater when working in the office, eating in a restaurant or drinking in a bar.
Scientists say that people stay on trains or buses relatively often and often don’t talk to anyone, which decreases the amount of aerosols they expel.
Masks are also mandatory on public transportation in most countries, further reducing the risk of spread, while in most work environments and restaurants this is not.
However, researchers admit that the data will be skewed because fewer people use public transport, even in a post-lockdown climate.
And public health officials say tracking infection clusters to precise railroad cars and buses is difficult, which may mean they aren’t in the numbers.
Catching coronavirus in public transportation is much less likely than ever feared, data suggests. Pictured: passengers on the London Underground this morning
Scientists say people stay on trains or buses relatively often and often don’t talk to anyone, which decreases the amount of aerosols they expel
The British were told they shouldn’t use public transportation unless they were absolutely necessary during the toughest days of shutdown, plunging their use by about 90 percent.
Now people in the UK can use the services whenever they want, as long as they wear a mask or face covering.
But they are advised to travel outside peak hours, take less busy routes, use contactless payments so as not to touch others, and keep a meter away from other commuters.
Pubs, restaurants and weddings are ‘super spread’ events
Pubs, restaurants and weddings are three of the main sources of super-spreaders, SAGE scientists warned in May.
Experts who advised the government told ministers that thousands of Covid-19 clusters are linked to these ‘risky’ institutions in other countries where the curbs have already been lit.
In a report filed at No. 10 in late May, SAGE said that up to 100 people in these places could contact the disease at once, even if only one person is Covid-19 positive.
They analyzed clusters of cases around the world, highlighting bars, weddings, funerals, hotels, sporting events, and shops among the riskiest areas of miniature outbreaks.
Nearly 70 percent of all new infections in South Korea occur at super-spreading events, the report said, and four out of 10 cases crop up in these conditions in New Zealand – two countries that have prevented major outbreaks.
It suggests that, even now that the British crisis seems to have disappeared, there is still a high probability that clusters may arise in these events.
The SAGE report on super-spreading events recommended testing in places where clusters could emerge – such as in pubs, concerts and football matches.
It reviewed thousands of super-spreading events in nearly a dozen countries around the world, including the US, Australia, Japan and Germany.
The scientists identified 201 super-spreader settings, almost all of which were either purely indoors, where the virus lingers in the air and allows it to spread more easily, or a mix between outdoors and indoors, such as weddings.
The largest clusters were most common in hospitals, care homes and cruise ships, where more than 100 people were infected at the same time.
But social events could see between 50 and 100 Britons contract the disease at once, even if only one person has Covid, SAGE warned.
In the report submitted to the government in late May, researchers pointed out that up to 70 percent of new infections in South Korea contracted the virus from such events.
A similar theme was seen in New Zealand, where more than four in ten new cases contracted the disease in those circumstances.
SAGE wrote in the report, “Rapid cluster identification may be disproportionately important for control, for example, large-scale testing and event / location quarantine can yield a greater reduction than reconstruction of transmission chains at the individual level through contact tracking.
“Identification and prevention of clusters would be easier if most transfer takes place in predictable situations / situations.”
Contact tracers who analyzed 386 infection clusters in Paris between May and July found that only four were connected by public transport (1 percent).
A cluster is defined as more than three cases that can be traced to a common event or location.
The study was conducted by researchers from Sante Publique France, the country’s national public health agency.
A study of 297 super-spreaders in Austria and April and May by public health officials found no connection to public transport.
Likewise, in Tokyo, where public health officials have aggressively sought and isolated the contacts of infected patients, there was no connection to the city’s notoriously crowded subway.
Tohoku University researchers found that the vast majority of the clusters were traced to gyms, pubs, live music venues, and karaoke bars instead.
In Singapore, the country’s co-chair of the Covid-19 task force, posted on social media last month that “the risk of the virus spreading in meetings and social interactions is much greater than in public transport where people wear masks.”
A similar picture occurs in New York City, the world’s capital of the death of Covid-19, where more than 23,000 people have died from the virus.
Analysis of contact tracking data by former New York City Traffic Commissioner Sam Schwartz found that only 4 percent of 1,300 hospital admissions had recently been made by public transport in early May.
Experts believe that the low levels of contamination in public transport are partly due to reduced use, good compliance with the rules on face masks and social distances and regular cleaning of buses and trains.
“Each of these things are stacked together to make things safer,” said Dr. Don Milton, an environmental health and aerosol transmission researcher at the University of Maryland. New York times.
However, Crystal Watson, a senior scientist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, urged people to interpret the findings with caution.
She said it was difficult to track infection clusters back to public transportation, as people often don’t remember exactly which railcar or bus they took weeks ago.
England’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, warned in the early stages of the crisis that crowded trains posed a special risk of catching Covid-19.
He said this was especially true of the London Underground, which serves about 1.2 billion passengers annually.
His comments are said to be based on a wealth of research showing that public transport exacerbated infections during flu outbreaks.
A 2011 University of Nottingham study found that those using public transportation during flu outbreaks were up to six times more likely to become infected.
But there is currently no publicly available data in the UK on the risk of catching Covid-19 by public transport.
No clusters have been reported and people were advised to return to work this morning and use buses and trains.
But London’s underground trains were far from full, as workers ignored the government’s urge to return to work.
Passengers, some of whom were not yet wearing face cover, had ample room for social distance as some took the Jubilee Line to the city center.
Boris Johnson had announced today – the first Monday in August – when ‘home working’ guidance ends and Britain should return to the office.
But nearly five in six office workers remain at home, despite the desperate urge to revive the economy.
Commuters sat on their phones on the subway and read the newspaper this morning, with plenty of free seats and only a few travelers to stand.
It’s a world away from the usual rush-hour rush when thousands of weary Londoners cram into the carriages in every available space.
On a typical morning before Covid-19 hit, approximately 1,124,825 would take the metro between 4 a.m. and 10 a.m.
But during the pandemic, this plummeted to 90 percent, with only 109,306 taking the network on the morning of May 29. MailOnline has contacted Transport for London for today’s figures.
TomTom’s traffic data from London show that rush hour traffic jams were only 22 percent this morning, up from 26 percent last week and 52 percent last year.
But Apple’s mobility trends, available only until Saturday, suggest that more people are driving in London – up 10 percent – while walking and public transportation are down 11 percent and 29 percent, respectively.
A Mail audit of 30 of the largest UK companies, representing 320,000 employees, found that only 17 percent of office workers would travel to work this week.
The prime minister said that British people could return to the workplace ‘at their discretion’ from their employers and would no longer be advised to stay away from public transport.
But many companies don’t plan for most workers to return to offices until the end of the year, while Facebook and bank RBS said staff will not return until 2021.
Only one company surveyed, investment bank JP Morgan, had set a goal to achieve a substantial return on office today – just 2,400 of its 19,000 employees.
The approach of white-collar workers contrasts sharply with construction sites, warehouses, shops and restaurants where staff have been at their workplace for weeks.
The government has been criticized for failing to hammer its back-to-work message.
Kevin Ellis, chairman of accounting giant PwC, which has 22,000 employees in Britain, said he believed his employees would continue to work only three or four days a week even after the pandemic.
It had 5,000 employees in its offices last week and he hoped to reach 11,000 by the end of this week.