The risk of being infected on a flight with the Omicron variant is three times bigger than with Delta. This is the warning from the doctor and advisor to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), David Powell, who said that air passengers are more likely to get the virus.
Powell’s comments are based on assumptions that yet another strain of the virus will be stronger than the previous one: “Whatever the risk with Delta, we will have to assume it will be two to three times greater with Omicron, as we’ve seen in other environments”, he explained in an interview with Bloomberg on 21 December.
1. Risky environments
IATA’s doctor also warned that those flying in economy class were more likely to catch Covid-19 on a plane compared to those in business class, simply because the seats are more closely packed together.
Yet, Powell noted that passengers were more likely to catch Covid-19 inside terminal buildings compared to planes, due to “much more stringent airflow rules“ for commercial aircraft.
While noting that the risk of infection due to the new variant is greater at the airport and in planes, Powell considers that other risky environments can be propitious to catch the virus, such as supermarkets or inside a bus.
2. Appeal for vaccination
During his interview to Bloomberg, Powell reiterated on the importance of vaccination as a way of avoiding hospitalisations. “The greatest protection we can give ourselves is to be vaccinated and given the booster dose. The protection we give with an extra mask, a different type of mask, or even not flying at all is probably less than the benefit you get from being properly inoculated“, continued David Powell.
Powell went on saying that the protection that people give themselves from an extra mask or a different type of mask or not flying at all is probably less than the benefit of getting fully boosted.
3. Studies point to milder Omicron
In spite of the warnings from the IATA’s doctor, different scientific studies have been published noting that the Omicron variant seems to be milder than the Delta. In particular, one of the studies conducted by the Cambridge Institute for Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Diseases, discovered that Omicron may be less efficient at infiltrating the lungs and spreading from cell to cell, compared with other variants.
Similarly, a study from the Imperial College London found that people with PCR-confirmed Omicron are 40% to 45% less likely to spend a night or more in hospital compared with the Delta variant.