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Transmission and control of SARS-CoV-2 on ground public transport: A rapid review of the literature to date.

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Abstract

During a pandemic, public transport is strategically important for keeping the country going and getting people where they need to be. The essential nature of public transport puts into focus the risk of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in this sector; rapid and diverse work has been done to attempt to understand how transmission happens in this context and what factors influence risk.

This review aimed to provide an overview of the literature assessing transmission, or potential for transmission, of SARS-CoV-2 on ground-based public transport, as well as studies assessing the effectiveness of control measures on public transport.

An electronic search was conducted using Web of Science, Ovid, the Cochrane Library, ProQuest, Pubmed, and the WHO global COVID database.

The search strategy identified 28 papers for inclusion in the review; 10 papers assessed transmission of SARS-CoV-2, 11 assessed control measures, and seven assessed levels of contamination. Eleven papers were based on modelling approaches; 17 studies were original studies reporting empirical COVID-19 data.

The literature is heterogeneous, and there are challenges for measurement of transmission in this setting. There is evidence for transmission in certain cases, and mixed evidence for the presence of viral RNA in transport settings; there is also evidence for some reduction of risk through mitigation. However, the routes of transmission and key factors contributing to transmission of SARS-CoV-2 on public transport are not yet clear. Research gaps were identified and discussed and six key questions still to be answered highlighted. Further exploration of transmission factors and effectiveness of mitigation strategies is required in order to support decision making in the future.

Funding

This work was supported by funding from the PROTECT COVID-19 National Core Study on transmission and environment, managed by the Health and Safety Executive on behalf of HM Government.

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