Coronavirus: How to safeguard your health on public transport

As coronavirus lockdowns are eased, many of us will return to commuting to work or school. So how can you reduce your risk of infection on public transport?

As more people return to trains, trams, ferries and buses, reducing the risk of exposure to the coronavirus will likely be front of mind.

A recent University of Sydney study found that more than 80 per cent of people are worried about hygiene on public transport because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study found average weekly household trips halved during coronavirus lockdowns, and concerns about hygiene and infection mean people are now more likely to drive than use public transport.

“COVID-19 has created disruption to travel and activities unlike anything we’ve seen since World War II,” says Prof David Hensher, director of the Institute of Transport and Logistic Studies at the University of Sydney.

If you do need to use public transport, there are simple things you can do to reduce your risk of infection:

Try to keep your distance

“It will be a struggle on busy trains and buses to maintain a 1.5m distance between people,” says Jo-Anne Martin, of the Department of Nursing at the University of Melbourne.

“Try to keep the seat next to you vacant. Or travel at less busy times when transport won’t be as congested.”

Travel everywhere with hand sanitiser

Infections like COVID-19 are spread when someone with the virus coughs and sneezes and releases infected droplets that land on surfaces like door handles, buttons and handrails.

When you touch those surfaces and then touch your face or mouth, you risk infection.

“Use hand sanitiser before and after you touch surfaces when you travel,” says Jo-Anne. “Whenever you touch a surface, sanitise.”

Should I wear gloves?

Some people like to wear plastic gloves in public places, but they have micro-holes that viruses can pass through.

“People think they are safe with gloves but they touch a surface and then pick up their phone or scratch their nose and can transfer bacteria to those areas,” says Jo-Anne.

What about wearing a mask?

The World Health Organisation advsises that if you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with COVID-19.

You should also wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.

“If someone is unwell, a mask can help prevent people around them becoming unwell,” says Jo-Anne. “But if you are unwell, you probably should be at home.”

Shield others from your coughs and sneezes

Always cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue and put the tissue in the bin as soon as possible. Then sanitise your hands. Keep tissues in your bag.

Sanitise your travel card every day

Your travel card can collect bacteria as you tap on and off during your journey. Clean it daily with an antibacterial wipe.

Where to get essential coronavirus information

If you are experiencing symptoms of coronavirus, call the 24/7 hotline on 1800 675 398. You can also use the Healthdirect symptom checker.

Instant Consult offers on-the-spot online GP consultations and can issue medical certificates, prescriptions, radiology and pathology requests and specialist referrals.

Information, news and government guidance on COVID-19 changes regularly. For the latest official health and government advice, visit:

Written by Sarah Marinos.