Less than a one in a million risk – testing ‘significantly mitigates the risk of COVID-19 exposure and transmission during airline travel’
Real-world data from nearly 10,000 air travellers has provided further backing to pre-flight testing as a key part of the air travel recovery process at time that more countries are starting to consider revised travel requirements. The research from US major Delta Air Lines suggests that the risk of exposure to COVID-19 while travelling if all passengers have tested negative 72 hours in advance of your flight is less than 0.1%.
These findings are not based on computer simulations or expert projections but from a unique study that examined real-world customer data on Delta’s COVID-tested trans-Atlantic flight corridors between New York, Atlanta and Rome’s Fiumicino International Airport in Italy.
The now peer-reviewed study, conducted in conjunction with Georgia Department of Health, has been published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings and showed a single COVID-19 molecular test performed within 72 hours of departure could decrease the rate of people actively infected onboard a commercial aircraft to a level that is significantly below active community infection rates.
For example, when the average community infection rate was at 1.1% – or about one in 100 people – infection rates on COVID-19-tested flights were 0.05% or 5 in 10,000 passengers.
“We are going to live with COVID-19 variants for some time. This real-world data – not simulation models – is what governments around the world can use as a blueprint for requiring vaccinations and testing instead of quarantines to re-open borders for international travel,” explains Dr Henry Ting, Delta’s chief health officer.
Air travel risk varies considerably depending on case rates and vaccination rates at the origin and destination, masking and other factors, but the data collected from this study show that the routine use of a single molecular test within 72 hours before international travel for unvaccinated individuals “significantly mitigates the risk of COVID-19 exposure and transmission during airline travel,” according to the health expert.
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