COVID-19: should you avoid public transport in the Netherlands?

With 18 confirmed cases of the coronavirus COVID-19 in the Netherlands, people have started to express concern over using public transport, reports RTL Nieuws.

People have been tweeting these past days about their fears in regards to getting the virus on public transport. The tweets especially show up after the morning and evening rush hour, with some people jokingly referring to the train as the ‘corona express’. If anything, gotta appreciate some good humour.

Is one small cough enough to get you infected?

According to virologist Ab Osterhaus, as everyone is very close to each other on public transport, one small cough in your face could potentially get you sick. However, he says we are not yet at the level of avoiding public transport due to the coronavirus. If an epidemic does happen, then the advice goes to vulnerable groups, like the elderly and young children to avoid public transport.

How does the virus spread exactly?

Virologists, including Osterhaus, are currently researching other viruses, like the influenza, to determine how the coronavirus might spread.

Osterhaus says that viruses spread faster in places with many people, such as in aeroplanes, where the virus is also transmitted through the air-flow.

There’s people who avoid touching the handles in trams, and for good reason. If someone who is sick coughs into their hands and then touches the handle, the next person who touches the handle can get the virus.

However, the virus does not survive long outside a body, therefore the transmission period is quite short. Osterhaus suggests that we avoid touching our faces while in public transport and that we wash our hands afterwards.

Why is no one concerned about the regular flu?

Osterhaus makes the point that people who take the coronavirus seriously ought to take the flu seriously as well. Every year, around 300,000 to 500,000 people die around the world from the flu, thus, you have a greater chance of dying from the flu, rather than from the coronavirus.

He continues by saying that when there is a flu epidemic, people don’t avoid public transport, so why would they avoid it now?

And after all, with a hint of amusement, as one twitterer commented, the coronavirus should be seen as an opportunity in public transport. ‘Sneezing now in the train is just an extra seat for my bag.’

Should the Netherlands take more measures against the virus or should they have a more relaxed approach? Let us know in the comments.

Feature Image: Madeleine Ragsdale/Unsplash


Vlad Moca-Grama
Vlad was born and raised in Brasov, Romania and came to the Hague to study. When he isn't spending time missing mountains or complaining about the lack of urban exploration locations in the Netherlands, you can find him writing at Dutch Review.


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