Just recently, Tanzania became another one of the many countries that closed their airspace. In order to stop the spread of the coronavirus, we have seen an unprecedented global ‘lockdown’, which has drastically reduced the number of flights globally.
Some reports estimate that flight operations have been cut back by 80% across the world. Airports and airplanes themselves are a high-risk area, due to the large numbers of people gathering, queuing and touching the same surfaces. In Tanzania, domestic flights are still running, and so if your travel is essential and you have to fly, it is important to prepare yourself as best as possible.
As Covid-19 is a respiratory illness that spreads through droplets, the most likely way to become infected during a flight is through coming into contact with someone who has the virus, or from surfaces. The World Health Organisation have said it is not known how long this virus lasts on surfaces, however, if it behaves like other coronaviruses it could last from a few hours up to a few days. Additionally, during a flight, people move around – they go to the bathroom, stretch their legs and grab items from the overhead cabins. This makes it all the more important to practice good hygiene behaviours, as a primary way to protect yourself and others.
For airlines that are still operational, stricter cleaning measures are being enforced, in order to reduce the risk of Covid-19, while flight crew have Personal Protective Equipment, including face masks and rubbers gloves. However here are some of the things you can do while travelling by plane during the coronavirus pandemic:
Practice social distancing at the airport: While airports are eerily empty at the moment, it is still crucial to practice social distancing. This means maintaining at least a two-metre distance between you and others. At airports, this is particularly applicable when queuing up to get your boarding pass, going through security and waiting in the departure lounge. Once you land also maintain distance when waiting for your luggage.
Pack hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes : While you are packing, take some essential items for your hang luggage that will help to keep you safe while flying. This includes an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and tissues. To comply with the regulations, all liquids should be 100ml or less.
Disinfect your plane seat
Once you get on the plane, even though it has been cleaned from the previous flight, to be safe you can use the disinfectant wipes to get rid of any germs or bacteria that may remain. This includes wiping down all the surfaces your hands will come into contact with, including the television screen, the arm rest, and the tray table. If you are sitting by the window, don’t forget to wipe down the walls and the window cover.
Practice regular handwashing with soap
As always, one of the most effective ways to prevent yourself from getting coronavirus is to regularly wash your hands with soap, for at least 20 seconds. It is important to practice this after coming into contact with highly touched surfaces, before and after eating and if you are close to anyone that has shown symptoms of the virus.
Face masks and gloves when worn properly can be helpful
While face masks and gloves can be useful in certain areas, for a flight they are not as necessary. If you feel more comfortable taking one, it is vital that the mask is worn properly and tight enough to ensure that bacteria cannot enter the nose or mouth. Similarly, with gloves, there is a risk that you may still forget not to touch your face or other surfaces, and if the gloves are contaminated, this increases the risk of spreading the virus.
Quarantine period after landing
Most countries, including Tanzania, now have a mandatory 14-day quarantine period, after arriving from a flight. This period will ensure that if you did get the virus during the flight, or before, you will not pass it on to anyone else. Once you land, again it is important to practice social distancing at the arrival airport, regular handwashing with soap, and wiping down highly touched surfaces.
Flying in the era of Covid-19 can be quite an unsettling experience, and there is a chance that coronavirus will change flying forever, with new and stricter measures put in place by countries and airlines to reduce the risk of another outbreak occurring.
While government advice is strongly advising against all travel, if it cannot be avoided, use the tips to keep yourself and others safe – we’re all in this together.