CAMBRIDGE (CBS) — A new study suggests flying may be safer than going to a grocery store or eating out at a restaurant during the coronavirus pandemic. According to researchers at Harvard University, 99% of airborne viruses are filtered out in a plane’s cabin.
Other factors that keep transmission risk low are universal face mask policies during flights, disinfection of high-touch surfaces on a plane and passengers who must state they do not have coronavirus-related symptoms before flying.
“Our team found that, together with their high-performing ventilation systems, the actions that the airlines put in place – including mandatory use of face masks – significantly reduce risks of viral transmission aboard an airplane,” said Leonard Marcus, co-director of Harvard’s Aviation Public Health Initiative. “With comprehensive adherence to these preventive measures by airlines and passengers, air travel, along with other sectors of society, can responsibly return to some level of normal activity as we await development of an effective vaccine.”
Masks should be worn at all times except for “very short periods” to eat and drink, the report recommends.
Researchers are now looking into the risk for other parts of air travel, such as security lines and airport lounges.
The study was sponsored by “a consortium of aviation industry airline operators, manufacturers, and airport operators,” though researchers said their report was independent.
A Department of Defense study released earlier this month also suggested that airplane ventilation systems are not spreading the coronavirus.