COVID-19 exposures: More international than domestic flights added to B.C. list so far this week

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control has added just seven flights to its list of COVID-19 exposures so far this week, and more of them have been international than domestic.

The centre added four flights to its list on Sunday, three on Monday and none on Tuesday.

The seven recent additions all landed at Vancouver International Airport between May 12 and 29, but were added to the list this week. Four were international and three were domestic.

Details of the seven flights follow.

  • May 12: Air Canada flight 305 from Montreal to Vancouver (rows 12 to 17)
  • May 24: Air Canada flight 119 from Toronto to Vancouver (rows 27 to 30)
  • May 27: Turkish Airlines flight 75 from Istanbul to Vancouver (rows 17 to 22)
  • May 27: Lufthansa flight 492 from Frankfurt to Vancouver (rows 15 to 22)
  • May 28: Japan Airlines flight 18 from Tokyo to Vancouver (rows 42 to 48)
  • May 28: Aeromexico flight 696 from Mexico City to Vancouver (rows 15 to 19)
  • May 29: Air Canada flight 119 from Toronto to Vancouver (rows not reported)

Anyone who was on any of the flights listed should self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19, seeking testing and self-isolating if any develop, according to the BCCDC.

Passengers who were seated in the rows listed are considered to be at greater risk because of their proximity to a confirmed case of the coronavirus.

While studies have shown that the risk of contracting COVID-19 on a plane is low, there have been examples of it happening. 

The low number of domestic flights being added to the list is a notable change from previous months.

Data on flight exposures from the BCCDC shows that roughly equal numbers of domestic and international flights were added to the list early on in the pandemic. In March 2020, 19 of 41 total flights added to the list were international. Similarly, 17 of 38 flights added in July of that year were international.

As case counts across Canada surged during the pandemic's second and third waves, however, domestic flights came to dominate the exposures list.

That remains true even for the flights that took off or landed during the month of May and have been added to the list so far.

Flights that took place during May will continue to be added to the list over the next few weeks as people who were aboard them test positive and health officials are notified. As of Wednesday, however, just 15 of 91 total flights added to the list for the month have been domestic.

The fact that roughly equal numbers of domestic and international trips have been added to the list so far this week may be a reflection of the dramatic drop in new COVID-19 cases and active caseloads across Canada since the height of the third wave in April.

After the number of flights added to the BCCDC's exposure list hit an all-time high of 261 in April, early indications are that May will have a much lower total.

Indeed, at the rate flights have been being added to the list in recent days, it seems unlikely that May will finish with even half as many total exposures as April had.

Health officials in B.C. do not directly contact everyone who was on a flight with a confirmed case of the coronavirus. Instead, public exposure notifications are posted on the BCCDC website