In the battle against COVID, masks may be the first and last line of defense. But now, there is a new ally in a place you’d least expect. 

In an attempt to prevent the spread of the coronavirus on flights, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) has advised Chinese flight attendants to wear disposable diapers so that they can skip trips to the loo. The recommendation applies especially for long-haul flights from countries where the infection rates exceed 500 cases per million people.

The recommendation to use diapers and avoid in-flight bathrooms altogether applies on flights to and from countries with infection rates exceeding 500 cases per million people. The United States’ coronavirus case rate exceeded that limit as of Dec. 10, at more than 660 cases per million.

The guidance is part of a lengthy document detailing technical guidelines for preventing the spread of the coronavirus in planes, which also states that flight and cabin crew should, on lower-risk flights, designate a private lavatory for the crew and sanitize it before and after each use. The document was issued on Nov. 25, according to CNN.

The advice to wear a diaper falls under a section covering recommended personal protective equipment.

“Personal protective equipment for cabin crew: surgical masks, double-layer disposable gloves, goggles, disposable nonwoven hat, disposable gown, disposable shoe covers. Flight attendants are advised to wear diapers,” the CAAC states. “Avoid using restrooms unless under special circumstances to decrease risk of infection.”

Other advice for the flights includes dividing the cabin into “clean area, buffer zone, passenger sitting area and quarantine area,” separated by disposable curtains. The last three rows should be designated as an emergency quarantine area, said CAAC. CAAC declined to disclose any more details on the guidelines.

China’s aviation market was hit hard at the onset of the outbreak in Wuhan and subsequent spread around the country. But it has recovered – on the domestic front at least – to close to pre-pandemic levels, while other regions such as Europe and the U.S. struggle to bring Covid-19 under control.

Airlines have insisted that it is safe to fly during the pandemic, partly thanks to the hospital-grade air filters on planes, but some researchers say it isn’t yet clear to conclude there’s minimal risk. Some cases have documented transmission on flights when passengers wore masks and sat far apart.

 

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