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China tells cabin crew to wear diapers on risky COVID flights

China’s aviation regulator is recommending cabin crew on charter flights to high-risk COVID-19 destinations wear disposable diapers and avoid using the bathroom to reduce the risk of infection.

The advice comes in a 38-page list of guidelines for airlines to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The sixth edition echoes similar instructions in previous, less lengthy versions.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said the recommendation applies for charter flights to and from countries and regions where infections exceed 500 in every one million people.

The diaper advice is in a section on personal protective equipment, which also recommends the following for cabin crew:

• Medical protective masks

• Double-layer disposable medical rubber gloves

• Goggles

• Disposable caps

• Disposable protective clothing

• Disposable shoe covers

• Flight crew should wear masks and goggles, but they don’t need diapers.

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 US 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. — Will Davies/Bloomberg

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