Increasing hand hygiene at top ten airports will reduce the spread of coronavirus

Departures area with passengers in Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport
© iStock/Yaroslav Sabitov

A new study from the Society for Risk Analysis has revealed that the spread of the coronavirus can be reduced by 37% if hand hygiene improved in airports

As coronavirus spreads around the world through infected air travellers, authorities are attempting to contain the outbreak and avoid a pandemic. The study reveals the impact of implementing disease mitigation strategies at airports across the globe.

Reducing the risk of the pandemic

The results of the study found that increasing traveller engagement with proper hand-hygiene at all airports has the potential to reduce the risk of a potential pandemic by 24% to 69%.

The researchers also identified ten critical airports, central to the global air-transportation network, and if hand-washing mitigation strategies are implemented in just these ten locations, the pandemic risk can drop by up to 37%.

According to the study, “Hand-hygiene mitigation strategies against global disease spreading through the air transportation network,” if increased hand-washing practices were instituted in ten key there would be a significant impact on decreasing the spread of viruses. Airports are not just locations that see large volumes of passengers, they also connect travellers with destinations in all parts of the world.

A cost-effective measure would be to adopt good hygiene practices at the top 10 influential airports, reducing the impact of the coronavirus spreading to just 37%.

These airports include:

  • London Heathrow
  • Los Angeles International
  • John F. Kennedy
  • Charles de Gaulle
  • Dubai International
  • Frankfurt
  • Hong Kong International
  • Beijing Capital
  • San Francisco
  • Amsterdam Schiphol

Being mindful of contaminated surfaces

Christos Nicolaides, Ph.D., lead author, University of Cyprus and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) said: “Airports, and aeroplanes, are highly infectious because they are close, confined areas with large, mobile populations. Viruses are spread through bodily fluids, so keeping hands clean at major transport hubs is central to control spread.”

Airports also contain numerous highly contaminated surfaces that are frequently touched by travellers, including self-service check-in screens, gate bench armrests, water fountain buttons, door handles, seats and tray tables.

In addition to increasing the frequency at which public areas are cleaned and sanitised, using proper coughing etiquette, wearing face masks and proper hand hygiene practices are the most common actions that can be adopted by air travellers.

Currently, analyses show that, at most, one in five people have clean hands at any given moment. If hand cleanliness at all airports increased from 20% to 30%, by increasing the capacity and increasing the awareness of handwashing, the impact of potentially infectious diseases would have a global impact that is 24% smaller.

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