Saturday, June 06, 2020

Virus can’t be transmitted if PPE is worn, expert panel tells HC; airlines allowed to keep middle seat occupied

The Bombay High Court on Friday directed all airlines providing domestic and international services including Air India to abide by the May 31 circular of the Civil Aviation ministry that allowed middle-seats to be occupied provided the passenger wears ‘wrap-around’ gowns and standard operating procedures (SOPs) issued by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) are followed.

The expert panel of the Civil Aviation Ministry, while responding to a clarification sought by the Court, submitted that the novel coronavirus could spread by an inadvertent touch only if the droplet from a sneeze or cough of an infected person comes in contact with a non-infected person.

However, if the persons were wearing proper personal protective equipment (PPE) such as wrap-around gown, the virus could not spread through a mere touch.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted a clarification note by the expert committee to the Court which said that transmission of the COVID-19 through touch could happen only under certain circumstances if the protective gears are not worn and hands are not being disinfected.
The expert panel said, “If an infected person merely touches a non-infected person, the virus will not be transmitted unless the transmission takes place through droplet carrying the virus sitting on clothes and ultimately these reaching the mouth, nose or eyes of the other person.”

It is necessary that both the infected and non-infected persons are wearing mask and protective face shield and it is mandatory that prescribed protocol for putting on gown and removing it is strictly followed, the experts said.

A division bench of Justices S J Kathawalla and S P Tavade was hearing, through videoconference, a plea filed by Air India pilot Deven Kanani through advocate Abhilash Panickar, who alleged that the national carrier had violated social distancing norms while evacuating Indians stranded abroad on the special flights.

Following a May 25 order by the Supreme Court, the DGCA on May 31 had asked carriers to try to keep the middle seats on flights vacant or provide “wrap-around gowns” to passengers who are allotted such seats. The HC on Thursday had sought clarification from expert committee of Civil Aviation Ministry as to whether the virus can be transmitted by touch.
06/06/20 Omkar Gokhale/Indian Express
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