Coronavirus SHOCK: Why scientists are saying the tube is not major source of spread

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Contrary to advice from experts from the beginning of the pandemic, trains, buses and planes may not be coronavirus hotspots according to new data. The study claims that, if there is social distancing in place and masks are worn, the chance of viral transmission on public transport is minimal.

Studies analysing hundreds of coronavirus outbreaks in France, Austria and Japan traced fewer than one percent of “super-spreader” incidents back to public transport.

Working in an office or sitting at a restaurant or bar were found to create a higher risk of infection than using public transport.

According to experts, people using public transport tend to only stay on buses or trains for short periods of time, usually without talking, which reduces the aerosol diffusion.

The mandatory use of face masks on public transport also reduces the risk of catching the virus.

However, the Government’s advice regarding public transport was to only use it if strictly necessary during lockdown.

The guidelines meant the use of public transport dropped by around 90 percent.

Public transport users are now able to use the services freely as long as they wear a mask.

The new guidance states that people are urged to travel at off-peak times, take less transited routes, use contactless payment and stay one metre apart from other people.

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Contact tracers observing 386 coronavirus clusters between May and July in Paris found just four were connected to public transport (1 percent).

The study was carried out by researchers Sante Publique France, the country’s national public health agency.

Research into 297 super-spreader incidents in Austria in April and May by public health officials found none were linked to public transport.

In Tokyo, no cases were linked to the city’s subway system.

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Tohoku University researchers observed that the vast majority of the outbreaks were traced back to gyms, pubs, live music venues and karaoke bars.

In Singapore, the co-chair of the country’s coronavirus taskforce, explained on social media last month that “the risk of spreading the virus in gatherings and social interactions is much higher than in public transport where people wear masks.”

Former New York City Traffic Commissioner, Sam Schwartz, observed contact tracing figures, discovering that only 4 percent of 1,300 virus hospitalisations in early May had used public transport recently.

Experts link the low transmission rates on public transport partially to fewer commuters, the generalised use of face masks and social distancing measures being enforced.

Regular disinfection of buses and trains also plays an important part in lowering the infection rates.

Speaking to the New York Times, Dr Don Milton, an environmental health researcher and aerosol transmission expert at the University of Maryland, said: “Each of these things layers one on top of the other to make things safer.”

Prior to the pandemic, some 1,124,000 commuters would take the Tube in London between 4am and 10am on a typical morning.

Figures from May 29 show that only 109,306 commuters used the service on that day, a 90 percent drop in usage from pre-pandemic levels.

Many firms reportedly have no intentions of asking their employees to return to offices until at least towards the end of the year to ensure their wellbeing is not put at risk while attending work.

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