Covid-19: what are the risks of transmission in a train?

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This year, the summer holidays are punctuated by health measures to fight against Covid-19. “The summer period should not be synonymous with slackening off while respecting barrier gestures”, reports the government. Hygiene measures and social distancing are therefore still in order this summer, whether in the city, at the beach, at the swimming pool, in the air or on the rails. And respecting barrier gestures is all the more important when traveling by train, according to a study published on July 29 in the journal Clinical Infectious Disease.

Scientists at the University of Southampton, UK, conducted a study to examine the risks of contracting Covid-19 aboard a train car carrying an infected person. The researchers carried out their research in collaboration with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Chinese Academy of Electronics and Information Technology, and the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Covid-19: traveling by train near a sick person increases the risk of contracting the virus

To complete this study, the researchers modeled and relied on data from high-speed rail lines in China, which covers a period from December 19, 2019 to March 6, 2020. In total, data from 2,334 patients and 72,093 close contacts were collected. The duration of the trips analyzed ranged from less than one hour to eight hours. “We studied the spatial and temporal distribution of Covid-19 transmission among train passengers in order to elucidate associations between infection, spatial distance and travel time”, specify the scientists.

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The authors found that between 0 and 10% of train passengers, seated within three rows (widthwise) and five columns (lengthwise) from an infected person, caught the disease. . The average transmission rate for these “close contact” travelers was 0.32%. Scientists also found that passengers traveling in seats directly adjacent to a sick person were at greater risk of contracting Covid-19, with an average of 3.5%. For those seated in the same row, the average was 1.5%.

Scientists looked at the “attack rate” for each seat. This is the number of passengers seated in a given seat diagnosed with Covid-19 divided by the total number of passengers seated in the same seat. The results revealed that the attack rate was 0.15% for every hour traveled with a patient. For people in adjacent seats, the attack rate was higher. It was 1.3% per hour. Another finding: the researchers also observed that only 0.075% of people who used a seat previously occupied by an infected patient contracted the disease.

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Covid-19: the importance of social distancing and wearing a mask during a train trip

“Our study shows that while there is an increased risk of transmission of Covid-19 on trains, the location of a person’s seat and the length of travel relative to an infectious person can make a big difference in The results suggest that during the Covid-19 epidemic, it is important to reduce passenger density and promote personal hygiene measures, the use of masks and possibly to conduct temperature checks before boarding “, says Dr. Shengjie Lai, lead author of the study.

During trips on public transport, such as the train, the researchers recommend wearing a mask and keeping more than a meter of distance between two travelers for an hour of travel together. For a trip of more than two hours, they believe that a distance of less than 2.5 meters is insufficient to limit the risk of contamination. This study “shows that the risk of transmission is not just about distance from an infected person, but also about the time spent in their presence. We hope that it can help inform authorities around the world about the necessary measures to protect themselves against the virus and thereby help reduce its spread “, points out Professor Andy Tatem, who participated in the research.

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