Covid-19 spread mostly through airplane passengers


The recent detection of 16 positive Covid-19 cases from Flight VN0054, has spread a fear of airborne infection of the deadly virus and a serious worry among many people who are now questioning if there are gaps in airborne disease control measures at airports.

Aviation is one of the most contagious gateways for Covid-19.

Aviation is one of the most contagious gateways for Covid-19.

Saigon Investment had a brief talk with Dr. Tran Huu Minh, an expert in the National Traffic Safety Committee, to ask his opinion on this issue.

JOURNALIST: - Sir, though Flight VN0054 carried 16 positive Covid-19 cases on board, of which most were foreign tourists coming to Vietnam, how do you assess the current possibility of more airborne contamination?

Dr. TRAN HUU MINH: - Airplanes are one vehicle that carry a high risk of spreading the virus due to an enclosed environment, where the virus can easily survive and flourish. The greater the aircraft passenger volume and the longer the flight time, the greater is the risk of the virus spreading.

Moreover, maintenance standards across many regions and countries at this time are complicated and the virus can spread easily via travelers. It is difficult for airlines to control the journey route of passengers before boarding. That is the reason that besides proactive measures to prevent the spread of the virus, the Government and ministries are paying special attention to the prevention of this pandemic at airports and airfields throughout the country.

- Sir, the fact that some passengers infected with Covid-19 are still able to pass an inspection at airports could mean gaps in disease control measures by airport authorities. What do you think?

- After studying the process of transmission of Covid-19, we know that the infection quite easily transfers from one passenger to another through direct or close contact. Airlines have many solutions to controlling the spread such as disinfecting the aircrafts, restricting number of air services, and deploying wearing of masks by both crew and passengers.

However, the airlines are not competent enough in detecting the virus and identifying infected passengers, as this is the work of medical authorities. At airports, if passengers do not have a fever, the body temperature cannot be detected for virus infection and passengers can easily pass through.

As a result, airports have increased the medical reporting by all passengers. However, this declaration depends on the honesty of the passengers. There are a majority of passengers who have a good sense of responsibility to the community, but then there are passengers with low awareness, and there are cases of fraud in declaration, so it is difficult to detect accurately.

In this regard, we must follow the legal corridor, sanction those cases that have deliberately deceived with false documents. In the immediate future, we must increase control of passengers infected with Covid-19 passing through airports, because if left, things will become very complicated. Tracing passengers who were on Flight VN0054 is difficult as they went many places and met many people.  

- Sir, in your opinion, how can we prevent this pandemic from spreading in the air?

- Currently more than one hundred countries are reeling under the Covid-19 pandemic. If we want to prevent it from spreading completely, we must stop all routes to the place of origin of the pandemic. But this measure is not feasible because it affects many political, economic and social issues. We still need to maintain contact between Vietnam and other countries and continents.

In my opinion, we should implement soft but highly effective solutions. For example, Europe is a pandemic hotspot, and the Government has temporarily suspended visas to some countries, and airlines have reduced frequency of flights to the continent. I believe that the National Steering Committee for Disease Prevention and Control will base on the actual situation to propose appropriate measures during each phase.

However, to learn from incidents that happened, at airports and airfields, authorities need to enhance control of passengers’ body temperature. Besides, it is necessary to seriously implement the medical declaration of each passenger and not leave any passenger who has not declared personal medical entry. Airports also need to continually disinfect high-risk areas, fully equip staff with protective equipment, especially those who directly serve passengers, and stay ready and alert for diversion and isolation of suspected passengers.

On the airlines' side, disinfecting all international flight cabins, and taking body temperature of all passengers before boarding are measures to maintain in the immediate future. The National Traffic Safety Commission has also advised all passengers to protect themselves, restrict travel and take flights only when absolutely necessary. As such, the spread of Covid-19 could be contained and limited and eventually wiped out.

- Thank you very much.

Translated by Khoa Anh

Bich Quyen (Interviewer)

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