Coronavirus: Public Transport Is Safer Than We Thought

When lockdown restrictions first came into force and governments all over the world advised only necessary mobility, most people began to avoid public transport as it was seen as ‘dangerous’ and therefore not to be used at all.

Although measures are now in place it doesn’t seem to have changed people’s opinions of public transport use. Car usage has risen back up to numbers seen before lockdown, despite many staying/working at home, therefore continuing to cause harm to the environment. The increase of bike usage has also increased, which despite being a positive response, points to the conclusion that there is still trepidation around using public transport and the safety of it.

Research, however, shows that provided correct social distancing, good ventilation and PPE (face masks, hand gel) are followed, then risk of spread on public transport is extremely low and in many cases, far less ‘dangerous’ than many other aspects of society.

The statistics below, (taken from a sky new article on the subject) show the likelihood of passing on the virus, based on various conditions.

How transmissions vary with settings and conditions

Most of these scenarios above are unlikely on public transport as there is barely any communication, good ventilation and low contact time. Particularly on short journeys.

Data below, taken in France from just under 3,000 coronavirus clusters (areas with three or more cases from one place or event in seven days – recorded between 1 May and 28 September) shows that only 1.2% of cases were due to travelling on public transport.

This is compared to the highest risk areas, which were Offices (24.9%), Schools & Universities (19.5%), Health Centres (11%) and Public & Private events (11%).

As you can see compared to various other elements of society, public transport is one of the safest sectors of society, despite the increased fear of using it and therefore is not something to be worried about using, so long as correct PPE is practiced/regulated.


Image 1: BMJ 2020; 370 :m3223

Image 2: Sante publique • Clusters by type of collective between 9 May and 28 September. N=2,830

Written by Andy Coulson

November 18, 2020

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