New Record: 47 People On Flight Test Positive For Coronavirus

Filed Under: Other Airlines


Vistara flight to Hong Kong has 47 coronavirus cases

Hong Kong continues to have very strict entry requirements, and all arriving international passengers are both tested and put into a quarantine facility upon arrival.

Hong Kong very closely tracks how many coronavirus are attributed to inbound international travelers, and if any airline is responsible for transporting too many people with coronavirus, the airline gets slapped with a temporary flight ban.

Well, an airline set a new record in terms of imported coronavirus cases earlier this month. On April 4, 2021, Vistara flight 6395 from Delhi to Hong Kong was operated by an Airbus A321neo, featuring a total of 188 seats. A couple of weeks after the flight, a total of 47 passengers have tested positive for coronavirus. WOW.

Prior to this weekend a total of 25 people from this flight had tested positive for coronavirus. However, on day 12 of the hotel quarantine all travelers were tested again, and 22 additional passengers tested positive.

Keep in mind that Hong Kong has a pre-travel testing requirement, so all of these passengers had to test negative within 72 hours of their flight to Hong Kong. Despite that, there were 47 positive cases after the flight.

47 Vistara passengers tested positive for coronavirus

Hong Kong’s previous single flight record

Hong Kong’s previous single flight record for new coronavirus cases happened on June 20, 2020, when an Emirates Boeing 777-300ER had a total of 27 passengers test positive for coronavirus.

Suffice to say that this situation for the Vistara flight is much, much worse. The A321neo has about half of the capacity of the 777-300ER, and we’re seeing ~74% more confirmed cases from a single flight.

Emirates had Hong Kong’s previous single flight record

What should we make of this?

It’s hard to decide what to make of a story like this.

It’s worth acknowledging that we’ve seen airlines fund studies that essentially suggest the chances of catching coronavirus on a flight are almost non-existent. IATA claimed that there were only 44 confirmed cases of coronavirus associated with flying, out of a total of 1.2 billion passengers traveling, which is one case for every 27 million travelers.

I think that data is complete hogwash, and of course it gets at the lack of contact tracing in so many parts of the world. Unless you’re Australia or Hong Kong or New Zealand or Singapore, you don’t actually know where cases are coming from. Even then, you may not definitively know if coronavirus was spread on a flight, or if multiple people on a flight just happened to have coronavirus.

India is currently seeing its biggest surge of coronavirus yet, so it’s not surprising that passengers from India may be more likely than others to have coronavirus.

Still, these numbers are downright shocking:

  • Obviously testing within a few days of travel is in no way going to catch all cases, but it should at least catch some of them; if 47 people tested positive after the flight, one has to wonder how many people didn’t travel due to testing positive prior to the flight
  • There’s no way to know for sure what percent of people caught coronavirus on the flight, and what percent of people just happened to be on the flight with coronavirus; while cases are concentrated around certain parts of the plane, that could also reflect parties traveling together
  • While there’s obviously some risk with flying, with proper mask wearing you certainly shouldn’t see this level of spread
  • The fact that 22 of the 47 cases were only caught after 12 days of quarantine (and not before departure or upon arrival) suggests that many of the infections were likely fairly recent, meaning there was likely spread on the flight, shortly before the flight, or perhaps even in the quarantine hotel (with families staying together)
  • I’m still curious what caused this flight to be such an outlier — one can’t help but wonder if the pre-flight testing was performed correctly, if mask wearing was enforced on the flight, or if this was just a total freak event that defies all logic

Hong Kong has a mandatory hotel quarantine for arriving travelers

Bottom line

47 passengers on a Vistara flight from Delhi to Hong Kong tested positive for coronavirus, with 22 of those people only testing positive after quarantining for nearly two weeks.

This is the highest number of imported cases that Hong Kong has ever seen, and on top of that this wasn’t even on a big plane — it had just 188 seats.

This is a good reminder to continue taking precautions when flying — your chances of catching coronavirus on a plane are somewhere between one in 27 million, and 47 in 188. 😉

What’s your theory of what happened with this Vistara flight that caused so many cases?

  1. Honestly wonder if their tests were legit or forged (and didn’t even take one). So many cases being unnoticed right before leaving for HKG seems so unlikely to me. Like you say, surely at least a few would show up.

    Also, the India surge is not surprising. Poorer countries simply won’t have vaccines available in big enough numbers for a while to make difference (unlike here, Israel, the UK, etc.).

  2. The 22 extra might have come from the quarantine hotel (if there was one). Happened in New Zealand, too.

  3. As far as I know, there is a mandatory hotel quarantine in Hong Kong. Seeing so many cases 12 days after arrival makes me suspect that they may have contracted the virus in the hotel quarantine. Perhaps a group of travellers staying the in the same hotel for quarantine?

    On the other hand side, the seat map possibly confirms that infections in the same row is more likely than from front to back, because the air is not flowing from front to back but circulating in the same zone – which is good news.

  4. We have seen super-spreader type events in the past plus with the new mutations, this doesn’t surprise me that much. Just look at what the new mutations are doing to India in this last wave while most other places are declining.

    I see too many people wearing poorly fitting cloth face coverings. Given how inexpensive KN95 or similar masks are on eBay etc, people should be wearing them especially when they’re in close contact with others. I’m fully vaccinated and still wearing KN95 although it’s a pain with glasses.

    I’m glad we are hearing about events like this especially given the precautions HKG is taking, but let’s hope this doesn’t become common. The surges we are seeing could very well lead to even worse mutations.

  5. Maybe some people faked their test results? People may also catch the virus on their connecting flights where domestic travelers are not tested.

    China used to require testing within 72hrs but now requires testing at designated labs at the departing city of the nonstop flight to China within 48 hrs, due to these two concerns.

  6. Oh it makes sense all right. Half of the imported cases into Canada are from India. Should ban flights from there…

  7. Everyone coming to HK quarantines in hotels at the moment, not a government facility, unless they test positive on arrival. Not one hotel, but at any number of hotels on a government approved list. So not everyone was at the same hotel. Most likely transmission occurred a) on the plane, b) during the waiting period after the flight and before initial tests came back, c) on the bus taking people from HKG to the hotels.

  8. It’s also possible that some pre-flight tests were faked, but the testing upon arrival at HKG normally picks those up. The fact that so many people tested positive while in quarantine, after their initial negative at HKG, suggests some serious in-flight/post-flight transmission that only got picked up after the incubation period.

  9. Its shocking that you dont realize the percentage of specific nationalities tend to forge tests…

  10. HK had changed many times the designated labs to be tested from in Delhi. I think labs are struggling too with workload. Also, many Indians dont stay home and take precautions prior to travel- they do last minute shopping, see friends and family etc and they could have gotten it during that time. HK & Singapore has been much strict with Indian passengers. Good thing is that they caught it.

  11. Genuine question: has anyone on here actually been through HK quarantine and can comment on if families/couples are housed together? Have done Thailand (can share) and South Korea (depends on facility but generally one to room). Media reports of HK separating families but not sure if that’s reality.

  12. Doesn’t seem like anyone was actually sick though. If you have to test this many times to get a result then it’s just paranoia

  13. I’ve been through QT here in HK. Doesn’t have to be solo, couples can share a room, and in a number of places you can have up to 3 people (2 adults/1 kid). You can also get adjoining rooms, so 4/5 people can be in contact with each other the whole time. But only immediate family.

  14. 1) possibly illegitimate pre-travel results
    2) even if the pre-travel results legitimate, between testing and boarding the flight unless you’re actually quarantining then it’s possible to pick it up then
    3) in-flight
    4) airport, travel to quarantine hotel, or in quarantine hotel

  15. @Peking Duck

    “Adjoining rooms” are rooms side by side not necessarily rooms with connecting doors. Keep this in mind people. I worked in hotels for many years. Call the hotel to clarify that.

  16. With vaccination and heard immunity, the battle with covid is at a end. Looking forward to traveling without testing and masks. Let’s make 7/4 the last day anyone has to wear a mask. Let’s make 7/4 the world independence day from masks!

  17. While I don’t doubt that results can be faked in India, I’m sure they were tested on arrival at hkg. I don’t know how many of the initial 22 were caught immediately upon arrival, but those would be the only ones were faked tests is a possibility (and even those aren’t necessarily games, given that the test could have been done 3 days prior to boarding and could easily have been genuinely negative then).

    So regardless of faking or not, the large majority of infections is not because of faking tests. That’s likely to be a minor concern.

  18. My theory is pre-flight tests were fraudulent. I am originally from a poor, developing country. When I arrived here in the US, the most cultural shocking difference I noted was the degree of honesty and fair play of the American people. And I loved it. Unfortunately, fraud and deceit are widespread and culturally accepted and even encouraged in most of the the developing world, specially my former neck of the woods Latin America. Anyone you had authentic and long term experiences in the developing world know this is not stereotyping or being racist but it is just the reality.

  19. This is probably more of an outlier event but I can see how this would happen from my own prior personal experience with COVID. I was flying cross-country a few months ago and per usual I got a COVID test a few days before departure to be extra cautious, which came back negative. Right after I landed at my destination, my friend (who took me to the airport earlier that day) called to let me know he had just got a positive test result back… #crap (I used other choice words btw)

    Due to the exposure I had with him (20 min car ride), I took a rapid test right there at the arrival airport and I was still negative. Because of the concern I decided to quarantine and not visit anyone until I had a few more negative tests come back just to be sure- two days later I took another test at CVS, which ended up coming back positive even though I was still asymptomatic at the time. Another follow up test came back positive again just in case the other one was a false positive. A few days later I got the typical fever, aches, etc.

    Suffice to say, this virus is very sneaky/insidious and does not require a lot of exposure time to spread from one person to the other. The main problem is that there’s a delay from initial exposure in which the test will finally show a positive result and even more time before symptoms finally show up. The fortunate outcome of this event is that my friend and I both recovered without hospitalization and most likely avoided spreading it to anyone else thanks to quick action and using extra caution by immediately quarantining (according to Harvard I wouldn’t be contagious for 48 hours after my initial exposure so I wouldn’t have spread it on the flight or right after).

  20. All countries should have banned flights coming from India a long time ago. I think it’s hilarious people think that everyone on a flight actually got a test in India and got legitimate results within 72 hours. Certain Indian carriers hand out statements to the passengers prior to boarding and have them sign it indicating they are negative for COVID. The airlines have no financial incentive to turn away passengers. It wouldn’t surprise me if this whole scam gets exposed soon. Especially now with Indian variants of COVID starting to show up outside of India.

  21. Given that Vistara is a full service airline, I’m pretty sure they serve meals to all pax, which would mean that many passengers had their masks off for an extended amount of time. Perhaps that could have been a factor.

  22. HK test people 3 times: day 0 (on arrival day), day 12 and day 19. So these 22 people tested positive during quarantine on day 12 which it’s normal… because that’s the day HK do their second covid test. Unless they all get tested everyday that could result in different positive dates, otherwise that’s why they all showed positive on day 12. Another data published by the department of health in HK…since the beginning of this year, for all the imported positive covid cases: 15% where discovered during 1st week of arrival, 75% on the 2nd week and 5% on the 3rd week. 60% of the ones with VOC (variants of concern) are asymptomatic.

  23. @Brady
    > If masks really work, you have nothing to fear from us Neanderthal mouth-breathers

    I guess you “Neanderthal mouth-breathers” didn’t get the memo about masks primarily preventing infected from spreading it, not uninfected people from contracting it. But Neanderthals are famous for living in caves rather than under rocks, so I’m not sure what your excuse is.

  24. Unfortunately the unknowns exceed the knowns. No one knows how well the vaccine will work, how long it can be effective, what new variants will pop up, etc.

    Traveling is just a bug unknown. You may easily get stuck at your destination or maybe in a connecting city.

    People want to move forward but herd immunity seems far fetched especially as variants emerge. And many have bizarre reasons to avoid vaccines.

    I think those hoping for normal may be waiting for quite a while. Countries are on 3rd, 4th waves with how many more to occur. Hopefully things will improve but clearly no one has a clue as to if it will.

  25. I had a look at the information posted online by the department of health, and roughly around 10 of the 47 cases tested positive on arrival at the HKG (day 0). And the rest were sent to quarantine hotels and were tested positive afterwards. Different families stayed in different hotels… the above cases stayed in 7 different hotels across HK, so very unlikely to be spreading in a hotel (unless they’ve stayed in the same room). Also, I would like to add one more thing, unless you show symptoms which they will test you right away… for the rest who did not report any symptoms, the testing date are: day 0, day 12 and day 19.

  26. @Brady
    Hey Brady so have you read the latest “media beat up” about what’s going on in Brazil? You know, the reports that they have run out of sedatives cause so many people are hospitalised with Covid, so now they have to strap patients onto their beds to force the tubes into them without sedatives which has been described as nothing short of torture?

    Enough of your whining about your precious freedoms … just wear the goddamned mask and think of others for once.

  27. From the very beginning it was clear that an N95 was not effective because the corona particles could pass through. Anything less (cloth, disposable, scarf, underwear) would not be at all effective and would just be “virtue signalling”.

    However the thinking that there ‘might’ be a positive effect has shifted public opinion.

    Watching people with masks you see the following behaviors:
    – nose exposed
    – constant fiddling with the front of the mask
    – very poor fitting
    – constant touching of face and then other areas of surroundings and body
    – taking the same mask on and off for days on end

    The false sense of security of masked individuals lets them cruise well within social distancing limits with impunity – and this is the problem. The false sense of security.

    Lets hope that everyone gets their vaccine as soon as possible. Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Calgary have soaring rates of infection caused by criminal incompetence in vaccine acquisition and now the irrational fear of the AstraZenica vaccine 1 in a million blood clots.

    It is beginning to look very dismal for any chance of travel before 2022.

  28. “From the very beginning it was clear that an N95 was not effective because the corona particles could pass through. ”

    That’s simply not true. There aren’t random bits of RNA floating around int he air. It’s attached to droplets which are absolutely caught by N95 masks.

    Where are people coming up with this type of nonsense STILL?

  29. Are those 188 seats the number of seats on the plane, or the number of filled seats on the plane? Those are very different things and imply different odds of contracting COVID on a flight.

  30. HK Gov authorities will ban flights from Philippines, India and Pakistan for the coming 2 weeks. In addition I there is a very strong likelihood quarrantine period will be increased from current 21days to 28days from those countries…once travel resumes, in line with what the Macao Gov just announced…

  31. @James,
    let’s get rid of those pesky seat belts in cars while we’re at it!
    I declare 7/4 to be independence from seat belts day! wooho!
    Let’s all take a long road trip in celebration.
    It’s sure to be a smashing good time!!

  32. @Space Doc
    Nothing against seat belts but the failure to wear one only affects the user.
    If you want a much better example of an activity which negatively affects all of us, kills infinitely more than covid ever will, then look at cigarettes. Parents can legally smoke around their children even though we know it has long term health consequences.

  33. @Space Doc
    Hell yeah, this is cause for celebration! I’m gonna drive around with champagne bottle in hand!

  34. @Regis we are corrupt here too, we just dress it up a little fancier and more sophisticated, that’s all.

  35. People still can’t see the forest for the trees. Although there are valid comments, it seems it has been forgotten, in plain English, that the Covid-19 got to every country by hitching a ride on…Ta Da! …airplanes!
    And, they still don’t CLEAN the …Ta Da! … airplanes!
    No social distancing, No removal … Ta Da! … of middle seats.
    Doing the same thing and expecting different results is …Ta Da! …

  36. @KS
    Thanks for sharing your experience with covid. It is always good to learn and hear more stories like yours and I am so glad you’ve recovered without hospitalization. May I ask, how many days from the time you had a ride with your friend, til you tested positive? And were both of you wearing mask in the car? Thanks and stay safe.

  37. It’s very funny everybody talk about mask, but nobody talk about use cleaning solution for hand.

    Here in Switzerland they said 50% of infections is by contact and not air, this can be avoided with the cleaning solution used regularly.

    We don’t know ether about the plane cleaning (this plane was used with another rotation shortly before this flight ?), about the filter condition inside this plane.

  38. I don’t understand why anyone is surprised by this. I got SO sick every time passing through Frankfurt secondary security – there is always some “major security” event with hundreds of people all crammed in together for hours. For that reason, I refuse to transit via Frankfurt any more. Plus Lufthansa.

    Did you see the NYT article? Surprised you didn’t or else chose not to share it?

  39. @Greg –

    For almost a year we’ve understood that asymptomatic carriers can spread the virus.

    It’s not paranoia—It’s science!

  40. @Chris

    Totally agree that hand sanitation and just being careful/distanced works wonders.

    With communities being very strict with masks and covid exploding exponentially it is time to rethink the “droplets” argument.

    But for the sake of argument – the front of the mask may stop the droplets. Then the wearer like everyone else plays with the front of the mask then picks up a glass of beverage. Now the droplets are on the glass and that goes straight into the mouth. So – thanks to the mask and poor hygiene/careful handling we now have a direct transmission.

    If just masks are needed then there is no exponential growth. Ergo – the masks for whatever reason are not stopping the spread either because the stuff gets through anyway or the false sense of security and bad hygiene are the cause.

    Whatever. The virus is still spreading. Some good news from the UK reported today that it appears that natural immunity (having had covid) is as effective as vaccination (84%) after several months and preliminary indication is that the immunity appears to be effective against the variants.

  41. I think they just had someone else took the test for them. Anything is possible in a 3rd world country such as India. HK should just ban all flights from India. The spread of Covid-19 in India is insane because most of them don’t wear masks. This is coming straight from a guy in India. I didn’t read it from some articles.

  42. Simple, how many people out of total capacity get up and go to the bathroom? Sounds about right to me 48 out of 188.

    Someone with Covid went to restroom, touched something that other people touched, after having touched face, mouth etc.

    This is not surprising. With as many people that don’t wash hands when leaving restrooms, and the fact that all of us unless trained surgeons, unconsciously touch our faces all the time.

    This is why masks, tests etc don’t/won’t stop any virus.

    It’s why the flu gets around every year.

    The only answer is not vaccines or masks or any form of avoidance.

    Problems are solved by confronting issues. If you are healthy, and I don’t mean just no known health issues, I mean if you eat right, work out, get daily sun, take the right supplements in the right amounts then this virus and all other coronaviruses are no big deal.

    If we want to solve the virus problems we need to solve the crappy lifestyle problems first. Masks and social distancing are placebo to keep scared people from freaking out.

  43. It’s really disappointing to see the amount of racism and xenophobia on this thread.

    “Its shocking that you dont realize the percentage of specific nationalities tend to forge tests…”

    “All countries should have banned flights coming from India a long time ago. I think it’s hilarious people think that everyone on a flight actually got a test in India and got legitimate results within 72 hours.”

    This coming from a bunch of Americans whose country has had possibly the most mismanaged COVID response in the world. With all due respect, I think some of you need professional help to learn to respect people that don’t look like you. As someone that lives in the US, I have seen tests be faked, so maybe you lot need to realize you aren’t perfect.

    Every country in the world has had to deal with COVID and its challenges, and India is no different. It is the second most populous country in the world, with some of the most densely populated cities in the world. There were always bound to be multiple outbreaks, so it doesn’t surprise me that India is experiencing a huge second wave. With that in mind, it is totally possible that flights departing India would have people that test positive upon landing, which a test taken 72 hours before departure would not have caught. This has nothing to do with fake tests or some sweeping generalization like “many Indians dont stay home and take precautions prior to travel- they do last minute shopping, see friends and family etc”.

  44. This should be a warning to all blogs and to Ben to BE CAREFUL! You may think you are being careful when you actually are not being careful.

    For now, I am vaccinated but am NOT flying on a flight despite my love of flights.

    I do not want to make others sick, to possibly kill others, to possibly get sick myself, or to possibly get killed.

  45. @Azamaraal
    From what I’ve read, natural immunity last about 6-8 months. And what you’ve said about immunity against variants, it all depends which variant. But the P1 variant has a 25-60% of reinfection, meaning if you got infected with the old virus, there is a possibility of reinfection with the P1.

  46. I don’t understand why this is such a big deal for people. Sure masks are imperfect. But did you you cover your sneezes pre-COVID? Did you use tissue to catch your snot before it flew all over the place? Maybe you used a handkerchief! If you did, you already demonstrated how fabric around human mouth parts can help reduce infection. What a wonder.

    Think about kids in kindergarten – everyone knows, when one get sick, everybody gets sick, yes? Tiny kids are super good germ spreaders! Because they’ll cough right into someone’s mouth when in a hug, or get their nose snot on their hands and rub it all over everything in the room and their friends too and they won’t even feel sorry. What’s one of the earliest things we teach kids? Cover your mouth from coughs and sneezes and wipe your snot (not on your sleeve either). Masks are just thicker kleenex with straps. Nobody claims that kleenex stops all infection but on average it helps get infection risk a little lower because we cover our g*dd*mn mouths and we did this even when the issue was one of a little minor cold, not a worldwide pandemic. With COVID we learned we have to cover our mouths a little more because you don’t have to be actively coughing to spread this particular germ. Yes people fiddle with them too much. Yes people sometimes treat them like a magic talisman. Yes they don’t solve everything. Nevertheless, I’m guessing you are still covering your mouth when you cough and sneeze, so please cover your mouth at a time when just breathing can spread a nasty germ around.

  47. It takes several days for tests to register that you have COVID. It takes a while for the virus to multiply enough to register in the test. So yes some people despite testing negative a couple of days before the flight may have been infectious during the flight. Then infected people. Then those people didn’t test positive on arrival. But we’re in fact infected at that point. All possible.

  48. So many good comments. Also consider: Passengers may have also contacted COVID in the days immediately before departure to HK and still tested negative, only to be positive in quarantine. That is why we have it. The article is not so much about flying as it is about the state of India.

  49. In the last 12 months I have been on more than 100 commercial domestic flights in the USA. Google tells me that I’ve traveled enough miles to have circled the globe more than 3 times. I’ve spent the equivalent of 5 months in a hotel room. I’ve eaten breakfast, lunch and dinner, indoors, maskless, literally hundreds of times. It’s not even May and I’ve earned enough nights to get back to Hilton Diamond, National Executive Elite, and enough miles for A-List Preferred, all at the pre-pandemic criteria. I think this gives me a perspective that very few others have had

    My primary residence is in New York State and for about 8 months I was required to be tested with a PCR test every time I came home, as frequently as 2 times in a week, and have never had a positive result. I’ve also had antibody tests and those results were negative as well. I was flying maskless regularly before the mandatory mask regulations began on airplanes last spring and while I wear a surgical style mask on flights now, because I am forced to, I rarely wear them any other time.

    Masks, except a properly fitted N95 mask, don’t do anything and the lockdowns didn’t work either. Stop being a sheep and look at the data yourself, those places with the most restrictions didn’t do any better than those with limited or no restrictions. In many cases they did much worse. Just compare NY and CA to TX and FL

    Unfortunately, for a very limited part of the population this thing is devastating but for 99.97% of the population, it’s not a death sentence, and for much better than 90% of the population this is just mild to moderate flu-like symptoms. The paranoia is completely absurd and unfounded. Yes, we have a responsibility to protect those most at risk, if they choose to be protected, but it’s long past time for kids to go back to school and those under 65 to get back to work, with obvious exceptions for those with significant co-morbidities.

    Your irrational fear does not trump my freedom. Your feelings are not my concern.

    Travel has been perfectly safe for me and I see no evidence that it will change.

  50. Very strange. Must be virus caught after test or tests results were fake, on the other hand, could be the flight attendants/hotel staff had virus and infected travellers.

  51. It’s India where wealth gets around rules. I can assure you even if not ask of them a good chunk of the tests were never run and people paid for fake negative test results

    Even if you forced a controlled test with a better vendor in India watch someone come in to take a test for someone else. Short of Reliable instant test we’re hosed as rapid tests now are highly inaccurate and proper tests can be gamed by having others take a test for you or pay for false negative documentation

  52. Indian here… the pre flight testing process is a complete scam. All international airlines need is a print out of a test result (the sheer volume prevents them verifying each one). Domestic airlines will make do with a pdf displayed on the phone. These are the easiest things to fake for anyone with even the most basic of Photoshop skills. Most people do the test ‘once’ and then reuse the same result while simply changing the dates. And if you don’t want to go through the trouble, even the most reputable test clinics will ‘adjust’ your result to give you a negative report (for a small fee). It’s only the testing on arrival at the international airports that should hopefully catch it.

    On a side not, India has exported over 60 million doses of the vaccine to other countries without having enough to vaccinate their own population.

  53. it is very unlikely they got it in hotel.

    the 12-day test from the flight was distributed over multiple hotels. These hotels also have passengers from other flights, and they also undergone testing and didnt have an unusual number of positives. it is unlikely that hotel can infect others only on the same flight in the hotel but not passgners from other flights.

  54. Every flight that takes off is an opportunity to carry the virus from one place to another. Not guaranteed if it doesn’t exist on the plane, but it’s an opportunity to transport from one place to another. Simple logic. I highly doubt this flight was an outlier and a rare thing – I think this is happening much more commonly as airports and planes have become super spreader events. Simple math – jam pack 100-200 (or more) people sitting on top of each other inches apart at best in a tiny space for hours at a time – no way to spin it.

    It’s nice to see at least one flight getting attention and getting tracked like this. Unfortunately it won’t change much as people are basically bored with with covid. Thanks for sharing the post.

  55. @Azamaraal

    While you make some good points for why masks have not seen as much impact in the real-world as expected/hoped, and about how important vaccines are, you are dead wrong on properly worn N95 masks for several reasons.

    1) COVID viral particles do not just float around alone, they are attached to water, so end up being much larger than you imply

    2) The way N95 masks (and surgical mask material) work is not like a sieve. The fabric is non-woven and carries an electrostatic charge that attracts small particles.

    3) Very small particles do not move in a straight line because they lack inertia, and end up bumping into the fibers of an N95 mask and sticking to them.

    Paper that discuses these principles:

    Lastly, if N95 masks did not work, we would have seen vast numbers of healthcare professionals get infected. That would have been widely reported if it happened.

  56. My guess is that many of the pre-flight tests were fake/falsified. Or some had such low viral loads at the time of testing, the virus couldn’t be detected. It’s not surprising given that ~1/3 of tests in India are turning up positive.

  57. Agree with @Brian and @Peking Duck.
    The pre-flight tests might be fraudulent, and infection happened afterwards, either during trip to when they arrived at quarantine hotel.
    I caught it after coming back from my recent travel with family. Maskless contact for 1 hour happened between a family member and a relative (who didn’t reveal he was sick) on the last day of trip before we fly home. The family member who caught it initially didn’t know that she has it until she’s sick couple days after, and by then we’re all sick within days. That’s how quick and stealthy this disease is spreading.
    It’s interesting the test came back positive after 12 days. Usually incubation period is only 3-7 days after exposure and the test can already identify the virus by then. Looks like there’s a silent superspreader event between passengers from the flight while they were in quarantine where they kept on visiting one another or sneaking out to visit others who were sick.

  58. @James – Are you seriously comprehension-challenged or do you fake it?

    This article literally presents proof of a lack of herd (spelling challenged too?) immunity and there you go off stating exactly the opposite.

    Let me help you out. Call this number. It will improve quality of life for you and those around you — 1-800-I-CANT-READ

  59. @Flyoften

    In the same vein as James, I see comments elsewhere of those who believe the vaccines will entirely wipe out the corona virus. Our best hope is a cure or that the virus mutates like the Spanish flu and becomes less lethal. A number of countries who now have the highest percent of their population vaccinated are still seeing numbers increase and are at all time highs. Chile is an example. We continually read about breakthrough cases from those who have been fully vaccinated with the Pfizer/Moderna vaccines including a number of deaths. I doubt many realize how few people were actually infected in both the placebo and vaccinated groups during the phase 3 trials. Here’s an interesting article on the vaccines and their absolute efficacy as opposed to their relative efficacy:

    I am not against anyone getting the vaccine but I do believe we should have the benefit of being better informed. I also worry more about those countries like New Zealand and Australia that were successful in bringing their cases down to zero. How will they deal with breakthrough cases even if their entire populations are vaccinated? Are they willing to accept that there will be more covid deaths within their borders?

  60. The data is b*llshit that says planes are safe. I don’t believe it for a second and I’m a PhD scientist. Even after full vaccination with PFE, I’m still wary of getting on a plane.

  61. Dave basically implies that Covid-19 is nothing. I disagree. Over half a million dead and a few million with serious long term problems, even a lung transplant. It’s not 99.97%. 99.97% would be 9,000 dead and 81,000 sick.

    So far, well over 500,000 dead, not 9,000.

    If 1% dead that would be half of an entire state dead because there are 50 states (one state is 2%)

  62. @Alan

    You are a troll, because Chile is one of the country who used the most Chinese vaccine Sinovac (4th in the world, more than 12 millions doses), who has been just confirmed that he have only 50% efficiency… of course you need to vaccine a lot of people to get a tiny result with only 50% result.

    And about Pfizer… this is the vaccines that Israel is using and guess what, some doctor said during Swiss TV news interview yesterday that they have nothing to do anymore in hospital, it was the total opposite 2 months ago.

    Switzerland use Moderna/Pfizer and the death rate is going down (first jab is only 25% or 25/100, so still very low), older 75+ are already vaccinated and there no more older who need to be hospitalized.

    So continue to spread your fake information like a troll, you will just look just more ridiculous with time.

  63. @Chris
    What fake information am I spreading? The same phenomenon as Chile is happening in Bahrain (60 doses per 100 people as of April 15) and Qatar (41 doses). Qatar is using Pfizer and Moderna.
    The state where I live in Mexico has seen hospitalization occupancy of covid beds drop from 85% in mid January to 13% today yet the vaccine roll out is very slow. Mexico has barely locked down since day one.

  64. I very much doubt any tests are forged considering the easy availability of Covid tests at a reasonable cost. Most Indian travelers are not savvy enough like westerners to create such documents. It seems a bit racist of those who are insinuating this.

  65. @Sam Rao
    I have an Indian friend living in California and he knows of some Indians coming to the US who have forged their test results given how easy it is. Much of the hi tech workforce in the Silicon Valley is from India. I actually think it is racist to assume they are less savvy than westerners much like assuming blacks dont know how to get online to schedule a vaccine appointment.

  66. There has to be something wrong within the pre-departure tests. I’m a US domestic flight attendant and in 2020 was on over 350 work flights and dozens of personal flights. I passed through over 65 airports, ridden in hundreds of hotel vans, and scores and scores of hotels. The volume of people I have had close contact with (you cannot socially distance a flight attendant) is in the thousands if not hundreds of thousands since most flights went through busy hubs for many many months and I was in the middle of those, crammed into bursting gate areas. I’ve had contact with gate agents, rampers, catering personnel, cleaners. All in small enclosed spaces. All of these folks not quarantining either – since they were essential personal, just like me.

    While there have been crew that have had covid, by far the numbers are slim. I have never been sick and tested negative many times for not only covid but covid antibodies as well.

    There’s a reason we haven’t heard other cases of something similar in this story.

    Even if flights are significantly down worldwide- there’s still thousands of flights a day, everyday crisscrossing around the globe.

  67. “It’s worth acknowledging that we’ve seen airlines fund studies that essentially suggest the chances of catching coronavirus on a flight are almost non-existent.” – Think the flaw in that statement is “airlines fund studies”. What next we should rely on studies funded by the NRA about firearms? Fast food industry about the health risks of fast food? I don’t trust the airlines or any other special interest group at all. We need independent studies from reputable sources. People can talk about the filters on those planes all they want, but the reality is you can get infected in the airport, while boarding/deboarding and even while on the tarmac if they don’t have the air circulating.

  68. @V

    Thank you for agreeing with some of my comments. I just wanted to clear up a misconception about medical grade and commercial N95 masks. Your comment “Lastly, if N95 masks did not work, we would have seen vast numbers of healthcare professionals get infected. That would have been widely reported if it happened.” needs to be clarified.

    I have inserted the explanation offered by the 3M Corporation who are producers of masks.

    “Surgical N95 vs. Standard N95 – Which to Consider?


    This is a general document that is not specific to any particular airborne contaminant, including viruses and bacteria, and that is intended for a sophisticated occupational audience.

    The following discussion is intended to help you differentiate standard versions and surgical versions of N95 particulate filtering facepiece respirators.

    NIOSH-Approved N95 Respirators

    Particulate respirators are designed to help reduce the wearer’s exposure to airborne particulate hazards. In the U.S., respirators are tested and certified by the U.S. National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). NIOSH tests and certifies respirators based on their physical and performance characteristics, including filtration efficiency. For example, N95-rated filtering facepiece respirators have a filtration efficiency of at least 95% against non-oily particles when tested using the NIOSH criteria. The particles used to test the filtration are in a size range that is considered the most penetrating. Therefore, the test methods ensure that the filter media can filter particles with at least 95% efficiency.

    FDA-Cleared Surgical Masks

    Surgical masks are cleared for use as medical devices by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), or equivalent agencies outside the U.S., and are designed to be worn by healthcare professionals during surgical procedures. That clearance is based on data and proposed claims provided by the manufacturer to the FDA for review, in which the FDA evaluates and then “clears” those products that meet their requirements. Because surgical masks are meant for use during surgeries, a key performance requirement is fluid resistance – the ability of masks to resist penetration by high-pressure streams of liquid, such
    as those that might result from a human artery being punctured during surgery.

    Note 1 Additional information about the differences between surgical masks and N95 respirators can be found in the NIOSH infographic Understanding the Difference Between Surgical Masks and N95 Respirators.

    Surgical N95 Respirators

    Surgical N95 respirators are both approved by NIOSH as an N95 respirator and also cleared by the FDA as a surgical mask. These products are frequently referred to as medical respirators, healthcare respirators, or surgical N95s.

    Comparing Standard N95s to Surgical N95s

    Putting this all together will help you differentiate between a standard NIOSH-approved N95 respirator and a surgical N95 respirator. While similar in appearance, the key difference is the fluid resistance and the resulting FDA clearance of surgical N95s. But when is that fluid resistance necessary?”

    The article goes on to suggest different scenarios where non-surgical N95 will suffice.

    As always – there is the caveat that “Properly sized, fitted and used in conjunction with accepted medical practice N95 masks will …” Medical personnel are trained in how to use the proper mask in the proper environment so unfortunately their effectiveness has nothing at all to do with the general public using disposable masks that don’t fit, are always being played with and used over and over again.

    Thanks for allowing me to point this out. Hopefully we will safely sail these troubled waters and reach the fore shore of normalcy once again.

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