UITP: ‘Chance of Covid infection in public transport is minimal’
As long as the measures are respected, the risk of coronavirus infection in public transport is minimal. This is shown by an international study by the International Association of Public Transport (UITP), the international trade association for public transport, published on Thursday. The Flemish public transport company, De Lijn, feels strengthened by this study and remains committed to the ‘Smooth and Safe’ campaign.
Decrease in passengers
The corona anxiety pushes many people away from public transport and makes them choose the car and bike more often. At the start of the pandemic, various countries also advised against using the train, tram, or bus.
The figures do not lie: both the Belgian railway company, NMBS/SNCB, and the Brussels public transport company, MIVB/STIB, are seeing the number of passengers decrease due to the stricter measures against the coronavirus, such as that homeworking should become the norm.
However, except for a few overcrowded buses and trains, the public transport companies in Belgium did everything they could to make travel as safe as possible. For example, specific protocols were introduced, and mouth masks became compulsory from the age of twelve – also at stops and in stations. Yet public transport is still often seen as a source of infection.
One in 11 000 journeys
According to the UITP study, this fear is unfounded, and the risk of contamination in trains, trams, or buses is minimal, at least if there is sufficient cleaning and ventilation. In Germany, for example, barely 0,2% of the contamination can be traced to public transport.
In France, it is 1,2%. In Great Britain, the risk of contracting a corona infection on the train is 0,01%, which is lower than the risk of dying in a car accident. Other studies show that if you sit directly beside an infected traveler, there is, on average, a 3,5% risk of catching the disease, while if you’re seated on the same row, that falls to 1,5%.
Research conducted by the University of Colorado Boulder in North America also shows that, according to a modeling exercise, the risk of being infected in a well-ventilated subway with minimal talking and movement is 0% after 70 minutes, and it’s even lower for a bus ride.
App with a busy barometer
Flemish public transport company De Lijn feels strengthened by this research and continues its ‘Smooth and Safe’ campaign. “We have always taken sufficient safety measures, in close consultation with the government,” says spokesperson Karen Van der Sype to the press agency Belga.
Within two weeks, De Lijn will also introduce an app with a barometer so that travelers can see how busy it is on certain lines. A rough version will be launched next week. It will simply appear in the app of De Lijn, so passengers don’t have to download anything extra.