FAQ: What Happens If a Co-passenger Tests Positive for COVID-19?

What happens if you travel on the same flight as a person infected with COVID-19? Here’s what you need to know.

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FAQ
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Passengers arrive to take a flight at Shivaji Maharaj International Airport, during the ongoing COVID-19 nationwide lockdown, in Mumbai, Monday, 25 May.
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Within two days of domestic flight services resuming in India, a 24-year-old man who took the Chennai-Coimbatore flight, and another passenger who boarded the Delhi-Ludhiana flight tested positive for coronavirus. So did two passengers who had travelled with SpiceJet from Ahmedabad to Guwahati.

As the two undergo treatment, the question arises – what happens if you travel in the same flight as a person who is infected with COVID-19? And should you be tested if the person seated next to you tests positive?

Here’s all you need to know.

Are all passengers who take domestic flights tested for COVID-19?

This depends from state to state. For example, Karnataka has mandated institutional quarantine for all passengers coming from Red Zone states like Delhi, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and Gujarat. So, they will all be tested for the coronavirus.

However, in Delhi, the Arvind Kejriwal administration has said that while 14-day home quarantine is mandatory for all passengers, only those showing symptoms will be tested for COVID-19.

Will I be tested if a co-passenger seated next to me tests positive for COVID-19?

In all likelihood, yes. That’s the basic rule of contact tracing being followed, ie, tracing the primary contacts and ensuring that they get tested for COVID-19.

However, this also may depend on the healthcare protocol of the state your flight lands in.

A man tested positive on a Chennai-Coimbatore flight. Were all other passengers on the flight tested?

This is where the state protocol and the local administration’s SOP comes into play.

The Coimbatore District Administration had decided that all passengers who land in the airport will undergo a swab test. They would be placed under institutional quarantine until the results come in.

In this case, one passenger tested positive and others were tested negative and were sent to home quarantine.

Had this flight landed from Chennai to say Kochi, then all passengers would have undergone institutional quarantine for seven days. They would have been tested for COVID-19 on the sixth day/seventh day. If the passengers tested negative, they would have been sent for home quarantine for the next seven days.

Has the Centre issued any guidelines regarding passengers testing positive?

Neither the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare nor the Ministry of Aviation has issued any guidelines regarding this. It has been left to the purview of the state governments to decide the SOPs for their states.

Are passengers on the Chennai-Coimbatore flight now safe because they all have tested negative except one?

Not necessarily. A passenger who has tested negative upon arrival could also show symptoms or test positive any time between three and 14 days.

What happened in the Delhi-Ludhiana incident? Were all passengers tested?

Forty-one people who took the flight, including passengers and crew members, have been quarantined since 26 May. They are likely to undertake the COVID-19 test, six/seven days into their quarantine.

What are the general precautions that need to be taken by airport authorities and passengers?

  • Passengers will have to wear masks from the moment they leave home/exit taxi
  • They will travel only in authorised taxis
  • They will first be screened by thermal scanners and their temperature will be noted
  • They have to self-declare that they are not travelling from a containment zone/ have the Arogya Setu app
  • Multiple sanitisation points at the airport
  • As far as possible, there will be minimal contact
  • Before boarding, passengers will be provided with a safety kit with a three-layered medical mask and sanitiser

What are my chances of catching the coronavirus from an infected person on the plane?

According to a study conducted by researchers from Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology, an infectious passenger with influenza or any other droplet-transmitted respiratory infection (coronavirus is also a respiratory infection transmitted through droplets), is not likely to transmit the infection to people more than one row away.

FAQ: What Happens If a Co-passenger Tests Positive for COVID-19?
(Graphic: The Quint)

The World Health Organisation also defines contact with an infected person as being seated within two rows of one another.

Now, when the infected person coughs or sneezes, and these droplets fall on you, and if you touch these droplets and then touch your face, you can get infected.

According to the same study, exposure to the virus – your chances of walking past, brushing against, etc, is higher.

FAQ: What Happens If a Co-passenger Tests Positive for COVID-19?
(Graphic: The Quint)

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