Here’s How Likely It Is You’ll Catch Covid On Public Transport

HuffPost UK reader Glyn asked: “Can you catch Covid sitting on a plane or bus as you are sat side by side?”

Throughout the pandemic, we’ve been told to avoid public transport as much as possible. So it begs the question: how risky is travelling with other people? And, as one reader asks, what’s the risk of catching the virus if you’re sitting next to someone?

The answer – as always – is not simple. A SAGE summary covering SARS-COV-2 and respiratory viruses on public transport states: “There is a good body of evidence to associate public transport with transmission of respiratory infections from a mixture of epidemiological studies and modelling studies.

“While some show no association between public transport and risk, the overall weight of evidence is towards an increased risk.

Whether you catch the virus will depend on lots of risk factors, here are some questions you can ask yourself before hopping on that plane, bus or train.

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1. How high are cases in your area?

Firstly, for you to catch virus from someone you’re sat next to, they would need to be carrying it.

As it stands, around 6,000 people in the UK are testing positive each day and the R rate is somewhere between 0.6 to 0.9. This has risen slightly – although is not too surprising, given kids have gone back to school. If R is greater than 1, the epidemic is generally seen to be growing; if R is less than 1, the epidemic is seen to be shrinking. You can check the R rate in your area online.

The percentage of people testing positive has increased in Scotland and the north west of England, according to the ONS. However elsewhere it appears to still be declining – thus, the risk of transmission is lower.

2. How busy is the mode of transport?

The quieter the mode of transport, the better. Not only because there are fewer people to catch it from, but also because you can spread out. This means if one of you does have the virus – and one in three are thought to be asymptomatic, so this can happen – you’ll be less likely to catch it.

“There is a risk of acquiring infection from travelling on public transport, where there are large numbers of people in a crowded, confined environment, when some may be infected and exhaling virus into a poorly ventilated environment if windows are closed,” says Dr Julian Tang, honorary associate professor and clinical virologist in respiratory sciences at the University of Leicester.

Can you catch the bus at a different time that isn’t during rush hour? What about taking a flight that’s at a less popular time?

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