The Wall Street Journal: A third of the passengers on a flight from New Delhi tested positive for COVID-19 — now experts are debating the risks of pandemic travel


HONG KONG — Rashida Fathima’s anxiety levels spiked as she boarded the red-eye flight from New Delhi to Hong Kong with her family. Covid-19 cases were surging in India, and the plane was packed almost to capacity.

Within two weeks of landing, Mrs. Fathima, her husband and two children tested positive for the coronavirus at their quarantine hotel. More than a third of the passengers on flight UK6395 — 52 so far — have tested positive, the most from any plane arriving in the city. The cluster is stirring debate among health experts in Hong Kong over how they got infected, and highlights the struggle facing the aviation industry as it seeks to get people traveling again.

Speaking from the hospital, Mrs. Fathima said she feared her family picked up the infections on the April 3 journey, despite wearing masks almost the entire time and avoiding using the restrooms on board.

Some passengers — including one in the same row — coughed repeatedly during the six-hour flight, people took masks off to eat, and some parents walked their crying children up and down the aisle, she said.

An expanded version of this article appears on

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