India switches flights on, but no measures for humidity, air quality

Mumbai, May 27, 2020: After a 65-day lockdown and an even longer hold on flights, India has resumed flying again, as the country allowed limited domestic flights from Monday, May 25. However, the current measures which focus on social distancing, limiting people movement and sanitisation, leave much to be desired. 

Issues around indoor air quality and humidity, which WHO has linked with the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, are not covered in the current rules for air travel. Experts in air quality have been lamenting the lack of focus on these two areas across the world, and India has not fared well on these counts either.

"Airports are large, indoor spaces with large air ventilation systems. They require air checks and humidity controls between 40% to 60%. Flights also cram in people with less than 20% humidity and colder temperatures which may not be conducive for asymptomatic COVID-19 cases", said Mansoor Ali, the founder of AMFAH India and an industry expert on air treatment products.

India is a tropical country, where humidity levels will spike with the coming monsoon season. Ali explains that it is crucial to identify and regulate humidity levels so that they fall between the 40-60 RH safe window. The low humidity levels in aircraft and high humidity levels due to monsoons fall on the opposite sides of this secure window.

The government has advised flyers to reach two hours ahead of their flights, wear masks, carry limited baggage and undergo thermal screening before they enter into an airport. Here, they would need to maintain physical distance and do self-check-ins. There would be no meals, newspapers or magazines and they can't bring their own either. Airlines will provide water bottles and advise passengers to minimise toilet trips. There would be temperature screening when they reach their destinations too. They would also need to follow health protocols put into place by their destination states.

In such a case, Ali advises passengers to begin precautions for air travel from their homes. "Before heading to the airport, track the indoor air quality (temperature, humidity and air quality) for your respective cities and their airports. Next, carry a saline nasal spray and use a moisturising lotion to prevent skin dryness and dry nasal passages. If you wear contact lenses, ditch them for the flight, in favour of glasses. Keep taking small sips of water to ensure that you remain hydrated through the journey", he added.

Ali has also requested the government to look into measures to improve air quality and humidity levels at the airport and in flights. "Please check the air quality levels at different points at airports and ensure that they are at PM 2.5 or better levels. If required, sanitise the ventilation systems and upgrade to medical-grade HEPA filters and UV lights to reduce pathogens in the air. Similarly, install dehumidifiers across the airport premises, alongside indoor plants to ensure RH levels of 50% to 60%."
India switches flights on, but no measures for humidity, air quality India switches flights on, but no measures for humidity, air quality Reviewed by Twinkle on 21:06:00 Rating: 5
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