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COVID-19 can’t spread by touch: panel to HC

Court passes interim order directing airlines to allow passengers to occupy middle seat

The Bombay High Court on Friday passed an interim order directing flight operators to allow passengers to occupy the middle seat.

A Division Bench of Justices S.J. Kathawalla and S.P. Tavade was hearing a petition filed by Air India pilot Deven Kanani. In his plea, Mr. Kanani said the airline was flouting guidelines by not keeping middle seats vacant in special Vande Bharat flights bringing back Indian citizens stranded abroad.

An expert panel of the Ministry of Civil Aviation on Friday submitted a note to the High Court stating that COVID-19 does not spread by mere touch of a person who is a carrier of the novel coronavirus.

The court on Thursday had asked the panel to issue a clarification. The note said the novel coronavirus virus can be transmitted by touch only under certain circumstances like when an infected person’s droplets from nose or mouth (coughing or sneezing) comes in contact with a surface or clothes and another person comes in contact with the surface and then touches his or her nose, eyes or mouth.

The note added, “If an infected person merely touches a non-infected person the virus will not be transmitted. Transmission has to take place through droplets carrying the virus and the same reaching mouth, nose or eyes of the other person.”

The note said, “If an infected person is wearing a protective gown and a non-infected person is sitting next to him/her, even if the infected person’s clothes have the virus on it, the protective gown would insulate this person and if the neighbouring person inadvertently touches the gown, this person will not be infected as the gown would provide the necessary shield.”

The court had asked the Centre to provide data of passengers who tested negative for COVID-19 when they boarded the flights, but tested positive after arriving in India. On Thursday, Air India filed an affidavit that from May 7 to June 1 they undertook 423 flights with 58,867 passengers, of which 248 had tested positive.

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