A travel expert has revealed that there is one place where the coronavirus thrives, making travellers more at risk of contracting the virus than anywhere else. Appearing on Good Morning Britain, Simon Calder explained that people should be less concerned about flying to infected regions and more concerned about the airport itself.
Discussing an incident at Heathrow airport yesterday, which saw a British Airways aircraft forced to return to the terminal after a passenger panicked about travelling to Italy, Calder pointed out that the airport was actually more dangerous than the flight to the coronavirus infected region.
He said: “It’s still the case that it’s not very easy to catch this if you follow normal travel procedures. So for instance, this time yesterday there was a British Airways flight to Milan, it pushed away from the gate at Heathrow and then returned because a passenger decided they didn’t want to go to Milan.
“That from a risk assessment point of view was ridiculous because they’d already been through the most dangerous part of the journey which is an international airport where you’re sharing all of the germs from all over the world.”
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However, even despite the growing numbers of infected people, the World Health Organisation says that the same precautions to protect against any respiratory infection should be put in place.
They advise travellers to be strict with hand hygiene, washing hands with soap and water and ensuring they are using alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention also says: “Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.”
While facemasks are becoming a common sight at airports, it turns out they might not be the best way to protect against the illness.
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Speaking to Express.co.uk, Dr Richard Dawood, of Fleet Street Medical, explained: “Face masks are of limited value: surgical masks offer no protection to the wearer though they may protect others if you are infected yourself.
High filtration masks are protective but difficult to wear and use safely.
“Outside a medical setting, the only situation where I would really consider using them would be during a long delay on the ground in a plane with its air circulation system turned off,” says Dr Dawood.
Dr Carmen Dolea, Head, IHR Secretariat at the World Health Organisation adds: “If you have to travel you have to go to the airport.
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“If you want to reduce your risk of being infected it’s true that staying away from people which may be suspected cases may help you to reduce your risk.”
Of course, it may not be so easy to detect who may be suffering.
Appearing alongside Mr Calder, Dr Hilary Jones explained that many people infected with the disease may mistake the symptoms for the common flu or cold.
When asked how to tell the difference Dr Jones said: “The answer is you can’t tell the difference and that’s the problem.”
The virus began in Wuhan, China and rapidly took the nation by storm.
Since then, Italy has become the latest country to see widespread infection.
Northern municipalities are now under quarantine, with police enforcing strict punishments for those who try to flout the lockdown.
At the time of writing, there are currently 270 confirmed cases, with seven deaths since Friday.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advises people staying in the country should “follow local instructions”.
They said: “There is an ongoing outbreak of coronavirus in China and elsewhere, including Italy.
“The government of Italy has introduced extraordinary measures that allow regions to implement civil protection measures in response to Coronavirus.
“This includes the isolation of 10 small towns in Lombardy and one in Veneto.”
Globally, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 has surpassed 80,200.