Coronavirus: What’s the risk of Covid on public transport?


The number of people using public transport is far lower than before the pandemic, but it’s rising steadily.

What are the risks of catching Covid for those who need to travel?

How safe are trains and buses?
A lot depends on how crowded a bus or train is, and how much distance you can keep from other people.

Scientists recognised these potential dangers early in the pandemic.

Dr Julian Tang, a clinical virologist at the University of Leicester, says a key concern is sharing enclosed airspace, because coronavirus particles linger in the air.

“If you’re close enough to smell someone’s garlic breath on public transport,” he says, “then you’re also potentially inhaling any virus that’s carried with it.”

What can I do to protect myself?
Wearing a mask can lessen the risk, as can keeping windows open to encourage air flow.

The chance of picking up the virus from contaminated surfaces is now believed to be far lower than previously thought.

The main US health agency, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), says the chance of catching Covid via contaminated surfaces is less than one in 10,000.

A study by Imperial College London for Transport for London in February tested samples from escalators, buttons and handles and found no traces of the virus.

What safety measures are operators taking?
As numbers increase, rail companies are increasing capacity, to enable social distancing and prevent packed trains.

The Rail Delivery Group says more than 1,000 weekday services have been added since mid-February, with more planned in May.

There will also be longer trains, to make it easier for people to socially distance.

As well as more hand sanitiser at stations, there will be enhanced train-cleaning too.

About the author

Olivia Wilson
By Olivia Wilson


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