“I think that planes are probably the safest form of public transport compared with the anarchy on the Tube with people milling around,” added Prof Woodcock.

He noted that there was a misapprehension about the air in planes which, in fact, was replaced every three to five minutes after passing through a filter, adding: “The air in planes is incredibly clean.”

Although airport temperature screening devices could act as a disincentive to people who might be ill, Prof Woodcock said the evidence suggested they were ineffective. For example, they would miss coronavirus sufferers without a temperature and could cause delays when picking up people with common colds. 

DfT guidance has recommended that airlines extensively clean aircraft, increase the availability of hand-washing facilities and hand sanitisers, and reduce face-to-face interactions between staff and passengers. Staff are also equipped with visors and plastic gloves.

The department has also proposed that travellers should check in all baggage before boarding flights in order to minimise its contact with passengers and speed up embarkation. 

Other advice for passengers includes wearing face coverings in airports and remaining seated as much as possible during flights. People who fail to wear masks or coverings could be stopped from embarking.

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