DUBLIN: COVID-19 has been confirmed to have infected 59 people in connection with a flight to Ireland over the summer. A study published in the European scientific journal Eurosurveillance in collaboration with the Health Service Executive has revealed how the in-flight transmission of the virus occurred.
The outbreak occurred on a flight from the Middle East to Ireland with only 17% of people on board. Out of 283 seats, only 49 were occupied.
According to Eurosurveillance, 13 people on board were later found to have the COVID-19. Thirteen confirmed cases are between one and 65 years of age.
The first positive case was confirmed two days after their arrival in Ireland. The virus was first confirmed in two passengers and later tested positive in 11 others. However, the source case is not known.
Following the 13 cases, those who were considered close contacts and those who were seated next to confirmed passengers were also tested for COVID-19.
The Euroservilens report said 15 passengers were showing negative, one passenger refused to be tested and the other 11 passengers were not contactable.
After assessing the risk, the 12 crew members on board were instructed to be self-isolated for 14 days.
According to the report, some of the 13 passengers who were infected passed the virus to 46 others. Meanwhile, one of the passengers transmitted the virus to three members of their household. One of them passed it to 25 people. In total, 59 cases were linked to the flight.
The latest case in a series of reported cases occurred 17 days after the flight. Four of the people were hospitalised and one of those was admitted to an intensive care unit.
The study says air travel is accelerating the pandemic globally. The study also shows that the spread of virus through in-flight transmission is rapid. It also highlights the inadequacies of in-flight security defenses. “In this outbreak, 11 flight passengers could not be contacted and were consequently not tested.”
The report also states that the ‘in-flight transmission’ provides a reliable exposure for two of the groups who tested positive, given their seating arrangements.
Following this study, the ECDC released three-month guidelines. “Following this outbreak, Ireland augmented ECDC guidance for a three-month period to include an alert informing all passengers of a positive case on board and emphasising Ireland’s 14-day restriction-of-movement policy in place for all those travelling from abroad, apart from a regularly reviewed shortlist of countries.”
It also suggests that the shortlist of countries that allow foreign travel should be reviewed frequently. The study also found that wearing face masks, maintain distancing and restricted crew and passenger interaction could help prevent in-flight COVID-19 transmissions.