At least 143 flights with COVID-19 on board passed through B.C. airports in July

As COVID-19 cases surge in B.C. and across North America, the number of exposures to the disease on flights in and out of the province is also rising.

As of Wednesday, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control had reported 143 flights involving B.C. airports that had at least one confirmed case of the coronavirus on board in the month of July.

That's the highest monthly total the BCCDC has reported since April, when provincial airports saw a record 261 exposure notifications at the height of the pandemic's third wave.

The number of exposures reported in July is likely to continue to climb as more people who flew near the end of the month test positive for COVID-19 and have their contacts traced.

July's numbers continue a trend in which the number of flight exposures largely mirrors the number of cases being reported in the province, overall.

During the months of May and June, as infections in B.C. were trending downward and restrictions were being lifted, the number of flights with the coronavirus on board also declined.

The July increase came alongside notable changes in travel rules and recommendations in Canada.

When B.C. entered Step 3 of its restart plan on July 1, it officially stopped discouraging recreational travel to other provinces. While there was never a legal ban on it, non-essential travel within Canada was not recommended earlier in the pandemic. 

Similarly, on July 6, the federal government began allowing fully vaccinated Canadian citizens and permanent residents to return from abroad without having to quarantine. 

So far, the changes have not decoupled flight exposures from the overall trend in B.C.'s caseload. The graph of flight exposures continues to look very similar to the graph of daily new cases in B.C.

With Canada scheduled to expand the exemption to quarantine rules to include fully vaccinated Americans as of Aug. 9, CTV News Vancouver will continue monitoring the number of flights with cases on board to see if it continues to follow the overall trend in cases in B.C. 

Notably, most of the flights with COVID-19 on board in B.C. since the pandemic began have been domestic, rather than international.

July's 143 flights included 55 that were international, the largest number of international flights with COVID-19 cases on board ever recorded in a month, according to BCCDC data.

Studies have shown that the risk of contracting COVID-19 on an airplane is low, though there have been some examples of it happening

The full list of B.C. flights with COVID-19 exposures can be found on the BCCDC website