The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday said that most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights owing to how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes. However, the US public health agency also said that air travel requires spending time in security lines and airport terminals, which can bring you in close contact with other people and frequently touched surfaces.

It said that physical distancing is difficult on crowded flights and you may have to sit near others, sometimes for longer hours. This may increase the passenger’s risk for exposure to the virus that causes Covid-19. The health agency also said that all international travellers should quarantine themselves for 14 days and maintain physical distancing.

Meanwhile, domestic flights in India resumed on May 25 and around 500 flights operated across the country after a gap of two months, following a countrywide lockdown announced on March 24. Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had said that it was not viable to keep the middle seat vacant on flights to maintain physical distancing. “Even if you keep middle seat vacant you’ll still have a situation where the prescribed distance for social distancing isn’t followed,” Puri had said. On Tuesday, IndiGo grounded the crew of a Chennai-Coimbatore flight after a passenger tested positive for the coronavirus.

The US public health agency also issued a series of preventive measures the airline crew should take to prevent from contracting or spreading the coronavirus. It said they should wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after assisting sick travellers or touching potentially contaminated body fluids or surfaces. It recommended using alcohol-based hand sanitiser, which contain at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.

The CDC guidelines also recommended minimising the number of people being exposed to sick travellers. “If possible, separate the sick person from others [by a distance of 2 meters or 6 feet, ideally] and designate one crew member to serve the sick person,” the guidelines read, adding that the passenger should also be asked to wear a face mask if possible.

During the coronavirus pandemic, US airlines cancelled hundreds of thousands of flights, including 80% or more of scheduled flights into June as passenger traffic has fallen by 95% since March, Reuters reported. United States is the worst-hit country by the coronavirus pandemic with more than 16.81 lakh cases. Covid-19 has killed over 98,916 people so far.

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