A single molecular test, within 72 hours of departure, can lower the rate of active infection aboard commercial aircraft below the rates of active community infection.

The risk of exposure to COVID-19 during a trip, after all passengers have undergone a pre-flight test 72 hours before ?? and the subsequent negative ??, is less than 0.1 percent. It is the conclusion of a study conducted by the Georgia Department of Health and Mayo Clinic Proceedings in collaboration with Delta Airline, which has examined customer data on Delta flight corridors tested for COVID-19 between New York-JFK, Atlanta and Rome-Fiumicino International Airport, in Italy.

The study has shown that a single COVID-19 molecular test performed in the 72 hours prior to flight departure could reduce the rate of actively infected people on board a commercial aircraft to a level markedly lower than the active infection rates of community. An example: when the median infection rate in the community was 1.1 percent, infection rates on flights tested for COVID-19 were 0.05 percent.

“We are going to live with variants of COVID-19 for some time. These real data, and not simulation models, are what governments around the world can use as the basis for requiring vaccinations and tests rather than quarantines for reopen borders to international travel, “according to Dr. Henry Ting, Delta Health Director.

“The risk of air travel varies depending on the case and vaccination rates at the origin and destination, the use of masks and other factors. However, the data collected in this study shows that the routine use of a single Molecular testing in the 72 hours prior to an international flight for unvaccinated individuals significantly mitigates the risk of COVID-19 exposure and transmission on air travel. ”

Delta’s experience and testing protocol demonstrate that it is possible to achieve a lower risk of infection transmission, according to the airline’s Health Director, confirming previous simulation models of viral transmission on airplanes.

Transatlantic testing program
The study began in December 2020 with the COVID-19 transatlantic testing program that allowed unquarantine entry into Italy and made it possible for teams to review and model various testing strategies for their feasibility, establish false positive rates, and those of case detection. Now, the results of this study are available, providing unique data on the risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2, infection rates on board and showing the feasibility of putting a testing protocol in place with significant impact.

“When the extremely low infection rate aboard a COVID-19 test flight is coupled with levels of protection on board, including mandatory mask use and hospital-grade air filtration, the risk of transmission is lower. to one in a million, for example between the United States and the United Kingdom, “said Dr. Ting. “These numbers will improve even more as the vaccination rate increases and new cases decrease around the world.”

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