Chinese airline staff instructed to wear diapers to avoid Covid-19.

  • Chinese authorities fear cabin crew may catch COVID-19 in airplane bathrooms.
  • Staff travelling from “high-risk” areas instructed to wear diapers.

China, having squashed COVID-19 cases internally, has become increasingly worried about imported cases. Returning citizens and incoming visitors are heavily tested and quarantined. The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) is taking further steps to avoid a resurgence of cases in their country.

CAAC has released a 49-page long list of recommendations for airlines to follow, in the hope it can prevent airline staff catching COVID-19. The advice provides a cautious, but understandable, selection of guidelines. CAAC advises that staff wear medical quality masks, disposable hats, double layer gloves, goggles, shoe coverings and throw-away clothes on top of their uniform. One piece of advice also recommends the back three rows of airlines be left empty in case any passengers need to be isolated.

The advice that seems most unusual is that cabin crew are recommended to wear adult-diapers and avoid using the toilet. The advice applies to staff returning from high-risk areas, areas with more than 500 cases per million. The advice comes because CAAC worry that toilets may be the most likely transmission spot on planes. COVID-19 is present in faecal matter and urine, CAAC is concerned about passengers transferring the virus onto surfaces, or it becoming airborne when toilets are flushed.

There are questions as to whether these concerns are completely valid, many airlines have already opted to have a cabin crew specific toilets to avoid cross-contamination with incoming passengers. Another thought is that most airline toilets are vacuum operated, meaning there is a low chance of the virus becoming airborne during flushing. Also, most modern airlines refresh the air every few minutes, meaning the whole cabin, including the toilet cubicles, have very fresh air and are potentially safer than the wider world. 

CAAC aren’t the only people concerned about aeroplane toilets. Boeing has designed self-cleaning toilets, which use high-intensity UV light too clean toilets in seconds, eliminating more than 99% of viruses and bacteria. ANA, a Japanese airline, has also designed a “no hand” bathroom that they hope to reduce the need for passengers and crew to use their hands.

Many will argue that any provisions that increase safety are welcome, but asking cabin crew to wear diapers for many hours on long haul flights maybe a touch too far for some.

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