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Published on Monday, October 19, 2020

Scientist challenges IATA's Covid safety claim

Airlines and plane makers' assertion that flying is extremely safe during Covid-19 has been described as 'bad math' by a leading scientist.

In fact, the scientist was the author of the research that IATA, Airbus, Boeing and Embraer used to back up their claims.

There were only 44 identified potential cases of in-flight transmission out of 1.2 billion travellers, IATA medical adviser Dr David Powell said earlier this month, based on the scientific studies by Dr David Freedman, a US infectious diseases specialist.

Freedman conducted the research with Dr Annelies Wilder-Smith of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

IATA said its analysis of the study 'aligns with the low numbers reported in a recently published peer-reviewed study by Freedman and Wilder-Smith.'

But Freedman said IATA's risk calculation was too simplistic and potentially misleading.

"They wanted me at that press conference to present the stuff, but honestly I objected to the title they had put on it," Dr Freedman told Reuters.

"It was bad math. 1.2 billion passengers during 2020 is not a fair denominator because hardly anybody was tested. How do you know how many people really got infected? The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence."

Airlines and aircraft manufacturers argue that planes present a much lower-risk of the virus spreading than most other enclosed spaces due to the use of hospital-grade air filtration.

IATA maintains its calculations are 'credible.'

"We've not claimed it's a definitive and absolute number," an IATA spokesperson said.


Written by Ray Montgomery, Asia Editor

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