An infectious disease expert behind a study promoted by aviation giants to encourage travel during the COVID-19 pandemic says he finds fault with their takeaway that flying has little to no risk — calling their analysis “bad math.”
Dr. David Freedman published research that was drawn upon in an International Air Transport Association (IATA) report that concluded that the risk of contracting the virus on a flight was “virtually nonexistent,” as long as passengers wear masks.
But the University of Alabama professor said the report was misleading in suggesting there were only 44 cases among 1.4 billion passengers.
“It was bad math. 1.2 billion passengers during 2020 is not a fair denominator because hardly anybody was tested. How do you know how many people really got infected?” Freedman said. “The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”
The trade group claimed their findings “align with the low numbers reported in a recently published peer-reviewed study by Freedman and [his co-author Dr. Annelies] Wilder-Smith.”
Freedman, whose the paper appeared in the Journal of Travel Medicine, said he declined an invitation to a recent IATA presentation on the findings with planemakers Airbus, Boeing and Embraer.
“They wanted me at that press conference to present the stuff, but honestly I objected to the title they had put on it,” he said.
An IATA spokesperson has defended the report as a “relevant and credible” sign that flying is low risk for contracting the virus.
“We’ve not claimed it’s a definitive and absolute number,” the group said of its calculation.
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