Social distancing not observed in aircraft because it is hygienic - Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika

As domestic flight operations resume in some of the nation’s airports, the Federal Government has explained why one of the safety protocols to curb the spread of Covid-19 may not be observed in aircrafts.

According to the government, the cabin is safer than any hospital theatre because of procedures air circulated in the cabin goes through.

Also, contrary to what passengers thought prior to resumption of domestic flights, the government also explained that the non-adherence to physical distancing was responsible for the ‘affordable’ ticket fare

Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, stated these on Saturday when he embarked on a simulation return flight to the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport in Kano to assess the preparation of the airport for resumption of flights.

The Minister was accompanied by the National Coordinator of Presidential Task Force on Covid-19, Dr. Sani Aliyu, the chairman Senate Committee on Aviation, Senator Smart Adeyemi, Senator Kabiru Gaya, Sen. Ibrahim Shekarau and others.

Speaking after inspecting measures put in place at the airport, Sirika stated the airport was ready and safe to commence operation.

The Minister noted Kano, Maiduguri, Port Harcourt and Owerri airports joined Lagos and Abuja airports to commence domestic flight on Saturday, adding that other airports yet to commence will join on July 15..

He however noted that the Federal Government will not rush any airport that is not ready as it was not in a hurry to risk lives.

Airports across the country were shut for over three months as part of measures to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Speaking on why physical distancing may not be observed, Sirika said: “Because of the nature of the airplane, the airplane is hygienic enough once you have your mask, you are safe to remain seated on your seat and where possible, we will keep the distance.

“However, let me explain the mechanics and the going ons in an airplane that makes it safe in Covid-19 period. Airplanes are designed in such a way that the ambient air at altitudes is clean. It is not contaminated. The air is dropped in the aircrafts, pressurised and because of pressurization, the temperature of the air goes up to 200 degrees which is twice boiling water and there is no bacteria or virus that can survive it and it is suddenly cooled to about 2 degrees centigrate and then it is passed to a filter.

“Passing through the filtration system ensures that every single organism is screened and then it is passed to the cabin and once it is passed through the cabin, it comes from the ceiling downwards.

“So, it is not coming from the cockpit to the rear, it is from the ceiling downwards and it drops on the floor and gets circulated.

“This circulation happens every two minutes. So, on a flight from Abuja to Lagos, the circulation will happen like 27 to 30 times. With this, it is ensured that it is more hygienic to be in an airplane than to be in an operating theatre in the hospital.”

He continued: “With this mechanism in place, everything will be safe provided that we are decontaminating the airplane before we enter and decontaminating after we leave and also cleaning all the possible surfaces that one will touch.

“If this continues, then everyone is safe to remain in the cabin sitted next to each other with the mask on. So with this, yes you can be without physical distancing but in the departure and arrival halls and everywhere including the buses, you must remain physically distanced like at least six feet or two metres.”

On the connection of airfare with physical distancing, he said: “Airfares are normal. There is little or no increase because nothing changed within the cabin.”

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