Responding to a study claiming that grocery shopping or dining out puts people more at risk of contracting Covid-19 than air travel, scientists and researchers say these findings are not foolproof.
[REPRESENTATIVE IMAGE] (Photo Credits: PTI)
A number of scientists and researchers have raised objections to a recent study that claims grocery shopping and dining out poses a greater risk of Covid-19 than air travel. Funded by airlines and aircraft manufacturers, the study was conducted by scientists from Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in the US.
While presenting the findings of this study, scientists said the ventilation system in airplanes continuously circulates and refreshes the air supply. These High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters manage to “filter out more than 99 per cent of particles that cause Covid-19”, the study claims.
Researchers, however, have pointed out that the HEPA filters may not function as effectively in airplanes as this report might suggest.
One such researcher, Arnold Barnett from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) told news agency PTI, “HEPA filters are very good, but not as effective as US airlines suggest. They are not foolproof and there are numerous examples of transmission despite these filters.”
Reiterating what the scientific community has maintained, Barnett added that transmissibility of the coronavirus depends on a person’s, passenger in the case of an airplane, emission of the virus when speaking, breathing, coughing or sneezing. The movement of droplets and aerosols inside the plane and its powerful HEPA air purification system also affects the transmissibility.
Referring to the claim that grocery shopping or dining out is more dangerous amid the pandemic than air travel, Barnett said one must know for sure if precautions and social distancing measures are adhered to in these settings.
Barnett’s own team at MIT is working on a yet-to-be peer-reviewed study suggesting that taking off masks for eating during air travel may significantly increase the risk of a passenger of getting infected.
If a person on a two-hour airplane journey removes their mask for about 20 minutes, the transmission risk rises by 33 per cent, MIT researcher Arnold Barnett told news agency PTI.