Airports are the gateways of foreign trade goods, inbound and outbound people, etc., as well as an important gathering places of domestic long-distance passenger and cargo transportation. On July 20, 2021, 9 positive cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) were found in routine nucleic acid tests of staff in key positions at Nanjing Lukou Airport. Epidemiological investigation and analysis showed that the cabin environment was contaminated with COVID-19 by infected passengers of Russian inbound flight CA910 from Russia on July 10 and led to an infection of a cleaning staff member. The epidemic at Lukou Airport then caused the spread of families, communities, and spillovers to 38 cities in 14 provincial-level administrative divisions (PLADs) in China and became the epidemic with the most widespread and large number of infected people in China since the epidemic in Wuhan. Subsequently, the nucleic acid test of a foreign cargo aircraft service staff member at the Shanghai Pudong Airport cargo area was positive on August 2, 2021, and a new case in Haikou was found in a porter of Haikou Meilan Airport Cargo Company on August 5. Several of the above outbreaks were airport related. The pandemic has brought serious transmission risks and challenges to airports.
In order to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission and spread through aviation channels, the following recommendations are made.
The working and personnel activity areas of international (regional) flights and domestic flights should be separated, and it is best to use an independent terminal. The targeted prevention and control measures should be implemented by comprehensive analysis of the epidemic situation, flight range, and passenger occupancy rate at the flight origin. Flights involving epidemic diseases shall park at remote locations. The inbound passengers should use special channels of corridor bridges, customs, border inspection, baggage turntables, and customs baggage inspection. The stay time of inbound personnel in the airport area after arrival should be shortened, and they need to be transferred to the designated hotel by special vehicles as soon as possible. The personnel for disinfection, cleaning, and garbage removal of international flights should be fixed, and they should take good personal protection when performing operations. These personnel should implement closed-loop management, centralized living, fixed rest areas, fixed vehicles and equipment they use, and prompt reports on any health abnormalities (11). Terminal disinfection should be carried out on high-risk flights and flights of persons with fever and/or respiratory symptoms, suspected cases, confirmed cases, and asymptomatic infected persons, including all potentially contaminated environments, surfaces, waste, and air, etc. The service organization implementing terminal disinfection should obtain corresponding qualifications. Irrelevant personnel are strictly prohibited to get on and off the aircraft. The crew will be transferred to the designated hotel by closed-loop management. Special vehicles to complete the delivery mission should be disinfected. Quarantine areas, toilets, checked baggage, baggage carousels, and passenger trolleys for inbound passengers should be disinfected every 2–4 hours according to the passenger flow. Flights with abnormal passengers and key tasks should be disinfected at any time. The central air conditioning system in terminal areas should be cleaned and disinfected regularly.
The areas for international (regional) cargo flights should be separated. The targeted prevention and control measures should be implemented by comprehensively analyzing the cargo types, epidemic situation at the place of origin, air temperature at the place of origin/arrival, etc. The imported goods operators should implement closed-loop management, centralized residence, fixed personnel, fixed site, fixed equipment and fixed rest areas, fixed vehicles and equipment they use, and timely reporting of any health abnormalities. They should take good personal protection when handling cargo on board. Aircraft and unloaded goods should be subject to preventive disinfection, and cold chain goods should use low-temperature disinfection technology. If the airport of origin can provide proof that the cargo and container have been effectively disinfected before flight departure, the airport of destination may no longer disinfect again. Aviation plates, boxes, net covers, straps, and other containers and their accessories must be fully disinfected after the import cargo operation is completed. Forklifts, tractors, and pallets for transporting goods should be disinfected at least once a day. Operation equipment for imported cold chain goods must be dedicated and disinfected every four hours. The working area and staff rest room should be disinfected at least every four hours. The disinfection interval for toilets should be increased according to the use. The materials and garbage produced in the high-risk link of import goods operation should undergo centralized disinfection and disposed properly.
In conclusion, the Chinese requirements for normalized epidemic prevention and control of “timely detection, rapid disposal, and precise control” for the prevention and control of the epidemic can be fulfilled by formulating and implementing full-process and full-link prevention and control measures in the airport area, strengthening personal protection and disinfection.
Prevention and Control Measures for International Passenger Flights
Prevention and Control Measures for International Cargo Flights