COVID-19: How safe is it to take public transport?

COVID-19: How safe is it to take public transport? thumbnail
Exposure to the coronavirus is higher in a crowded place.Thinking twice about pushing an elevator button at the metro station, or holding on to the steel rail in the bus? With the coronavirus believed to be more contagious than the ordinary flu, just how safe is it to take public transport? While scientists are still learning…

Exposure to the coronavirus is higher in a crowded place.

Thinking twice about pushing an elevator button at the metro station, or holding on to the steel rail in the bus? With the coronavirus believed to be more contagious than the ordinary flu, just how safe is it to take public transport? 

While scientists are still learning much about COVID-19, what we do know is that the coronavirus mostly spreads from person-to-person. People can catch the virus by breathing in droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze, or by touching surfaces that may be contaminated. Given that you need to be in close proximity to an infected person to catch the virus, the World Health Organisation (WHO) advises ‘social distancing’ – that is, maintaining at least a metre or three feet distance. The United States’ Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), however, defines close contact as within two metres or six feet. 

Exposure to the coronavirus is higher in a crowded place. To begin with, experts suggest avoiding peak hour travel, when buses, metros and suburban trains are packed. The risk of catching the virus is also greater depending on how long your commute is, or how well-ventilated your bus or train ride is. 

Research suggests that the coronavirus can survive on plastic or metal for as long as two-three days. While a number of transport authorities are wiping down seats and rails with disinfectant, experts recommend basic hygiene practices to protect oneself against COVID-19. This includes using hand sanitiser with at least 60% alcohol after touching any surface that may be used by the public – seats, poles, handles, buttons, etc. Don’t touch your face or mouth, if you haven’t washed your hands or used hand sanitiser. Some other tips include using your elbow or back to hold onto the pole of a bus or a train; using a metro/bus card over cash or coins that may be infested with germs.

And of course, if you have a cough or a cold, use a tissue or your elbow, instead of your hands, so you don’t expose others to your infection.   

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