Examine reveals enforced masking on lengthy flights prevents SARS-CoV-2 transmission


In a latest examine printed within the Worldwide Journal of Environmental Analysis and Public Well being, researchers in the USA (U.S.) carried out a scientific assessment to find out the components concerned within the transmission of extreme acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) inside flights.

Systematic Review: The Risk of Aircraft-Acquired SARS-CoV-2 Transmission during Commercial Flights: A Systematic Review. Image Credit: Lek in a BIG WORLD / ShutterstockSystematic Evaluation: The Threat of Plane-Acquired SARS-CoV-2 Transmission throughout Industrial Flights: A Systematic Evaluation. Picture Credit score: Lek in a BIG WORLD / Shutterstock


The fast transmission of SARS-CoV-2 throughout the globe and the coronavirus illness 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic have been enormously facilitated by contaminated people transferring throughout varied continents by way of air journey. The strict illness mitigation measures included limiting air journey and shutting all modes of long-distance journey in some international locations. Naturally, these measures resulted in vital losses in airline and tourism-associated revenues, with many governments having to supply wage subsidies and financial assist to assist the aviation trade.

Though international journey and tourism have now returned to shut to pre-pandemic ranges, the continued emergence of novel SARS-CoV-2 variants poses the chance of a resurgence of extreme COVID-19. The U.S. Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention have said that the transmission of the virus will increase in locations the place people are enclosed and comply with minimal distancing, that are situations typical of an plane. Due to this fact, it’s important to grasp the components contributing to elevated virus transmission contained in the plane.

Concerning the examine

Within the current examine, the researchers reviewed printed reviews of the believable transmission of SARS-CoV-2 inside business plane. They analyzed the data from these reviews to find out the numerous components that affect the transmission of the virus inside the plane.

Research have discovered that the transmission of airborne illnesses inside enclosed areas reminiscent of plane cabins depends upon components reminiscent of mechanical air flow, length of the flight, and variety of people within the cabin. There have additionally been cases of SARS-CoV-2 transmission inside plane regardless of utilizing high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters. Nevertheless, a transparent understanding of the chance of SARS-CoV-2 transmission in flights based mostly on strict masking and flight length continues to be missing.

The assessment included any reviews with index circumstances and flight length data. Any reviews regarding non-commercial flights or air transport, reminiscent of helicopters, air ambulances, or naval plane carriers, have been excluded, as have been reviews that didn’t embody flight information.

Flights that included data on masking have been categorized as unenforced or enforced masking based mostly on whether or not passengers reported utilizing a masks voluntarily or there have been strict protocols for passengers and flight attendants to put on masks. Moreover, since all of the masking information got here from long-haul flights that included meals, mealtimes have been assumed to be intervals the place masks weren’t worn.

Solely flights with index circumstances have been included within the evaluation to make sure that the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 was preceded by publicity to an contaminated particular person on the flight. The affiliation between flight length and the transmission of the virus contained in the plane was investigated by grouping the flights into haul sorts based mostly on the length of the flight and analyzing the an infection ratio. The an infection ratio was calculated by dividing the variety of aircraft-acquired SARS-CoV-2 circumstances by the variety of index circumstances within the flight.


The examine discovered that in comparison with short-haul flights with out enforced masking, long-haul flights with no strict masking had a 25.93-fold enhance in COVID-19 incidence charges, whereas medium-haul flights had a 4.66-fold increased incidence fee. Nevertheless, long-haul flights the place masking was enforced reported no transmission of SARS-CoV-2, indicating that masking might considerably decrease aircraft-acquired COVID-19.

Moreover, in flights with unenforced masking, every hourly enhance in flight length elevated the transmission incidence fee by 1.53-fold. The diminished length of publicity to aerosols and the non-inclusion of meals make shorter flights safer since they decrease the likelihood of expelling aerosol particles or coming involved with them.

The examine additionally discovered that long-haul flights with enforced masking had virtually no reviews of SARS-CoV-2 transmission inside the plane regardless of meals being served. The researchers imagine the enforced masking might have prompted the passengers to eat as shortly as attainable. Moreover, enforced masking additionally permits the flight attendants to make sure that passengers are appropriately masked.


General, the examine discovered that flight length was an element within the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 inside the plane in flights with non-enforced masking. In distinction, long-haul flights with enforced masking had no reviews of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 inside the plane regardless of serving meals. The researchers additionally discovered that every extra hour of flight was related to a 1.53-fold increased likelihood of viral transmission in flights with out enforced masking. These findings spotlight the protecting impact of face masks towards SARS-CoV-2.

Journal reference:

  • Zhao, D., Cheng, S., Tsui, F. R., Mathur, M. B., & Wang, C. J. (2024). The Threat of Plane-Acquired SARS-CoV-2 Transmission throughout Industrial Flights: A Systematic Evaluation. Worldwide Journal of Environmental Analysis and Public Well being, 21(6), DOI: 10.3390/ijerph21060654, https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/21/6/654  


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