It became known what the likelihood of contracting coronavirus on the train
Can you catch the coronavirus on a train? British and Chinese researchers tested this by analyzing data from China’s high-speed railways and information on infections among passengers traveling there. What have they learned?
The researchers looked at data from December 19, 2019, to March 6, 2020, analyzing cases with 2,334 patients who were the source of further infections, as well as more than 72,000 patients who had contact with them on the trains. Travel time ranged from one to eight hours.
In the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, scientists from the University of Southampton (UK), WorldPop, and several Chinese research centers described a project in which they analyzed the risk of contracting SARS-CoV-2 on a train that an infected person travels.
Analyzing the collected data, the scientists came to the conclusion that when traveling by train, the risk of contracting coronavirus depends both on the distance from the infected passenger and on the time spent in his company.
The researchers describe that more than the one-meter distance from the patient should be safe when traveling on a long train in the same row of seats, but after a two-hour ride, even 2.5 meters may not be enough.
People sitting next to a sick person are most vulnerable to infection – so, on average, 3.5% of them are infected. Of those sitting in the same row, 1.5 percent were infected. However, with each hour of travel, the risk of infection for each destination increased by 0.15%. The only exceptions were occupied seats next to a passenger – in this case, the growth was 1.3% within an hour.
However, it was surprising to the researchers that only 0.075% of passengers were infected while sitting in a seat previously occupied by a patient who was a carrier of the coronavirus.
“Our research shows that while there is an increased risk of COVID-19 transmission on trains, space and travel times associated with contact with an infected person can significantly affect the threat. The results show that during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to reduce passenger congestion, as well as promote personal hygiene, wear face masks and possibly take temperature measurements before boarding the train, said Dr. Shengjie Lai, who led the study.
What does this research show to passengers? Well, for effective protection from infection, passengers sitting in the same row for an hour together must keep more than one meter apart.
But if the trip is two hours long, that distance should be much greater – as researchers warn, even a 2.5-meter distance is not enough.
“Our study is the first to quantify the individual risk of COVID-19 transmission in public transport, based on data from epidemiological studies, including patients and their contacts,” emphasizes prof. Andy Tatem, Director of WorldPop. And he adds: “This shows that the risk of transmission is related not only to the distance from the infected person but also to the time spent in his presence. We hope that this will help authorities around the world learn about the measures needed to protect people from the virus and limit its spread.