Public transport use may lead to major COVID-19 outbreak

A leading academic at the University of Leicester has warned of major COVID-19 outbreaks amongst passengers using public transport if precautions are not taken.

Dr Julian Tang, Honorary Associate Professor in the Department of Respiratory Sciences at the University of Leicester, warned that travelling on public transport presented a high risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection, because most of the population is still susceptible to infection.

Additionally, the high passenger density in a confined space, together with poor ventilation would significantly increase the risk of infection. He advised against travelling on public transport without adequate protection, such as a mask, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr Tang says: “There is accumulating evidence and opinion that SARS-CoV-2 can be transmitted via the airborne route - which may lead to major outbreaks amongst passengers using public transport if some precautions are not taken.

“If travel by public transport is unavoidable, try to keep the windows open and if possible wear at least some form of home-made mask over your nose and mouth at least.

“Each of these actions will reduce the risk of infection incrementally though not necessarily to zero.”

Dr Tang highlighted that longer journeys present greater risk, as prolonged exposure increases the chances of some virus getting past these ‘defences’, and strongly urged that walking or riding a bike to work if possible would be safer, where outdoor air volume and wind would dilute and remove any airborne virus.