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Transportation

In Japan and France, Riding Transit Looks Surprisingly Safe

No coronavirus clusters have been found on subways, trains and buses in those countries. Does that mean public transportation is less risky than thought?
Subway riders in Tokyo keep their distance.
Subway riders in Tokyo keep their distance.Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg

Between May 9 and June 3, 150 clusters of new coronavirus cases emerged in France, according to the country’s national public health body. Defined as three cases or more of Covid-19 linked by contact, these clusters occurred largely in the sort of places you might predict they would: healthcare facilities, workplaces and homeless shelters — all sites where people mix in enclosed spaces for long periods of time and, in the case of hospitals, where people who are already infected are likely to congregate.

What was striking however, was the number of clusters associated with public transit: There weren’t any. For almost a month, not a single Covid-19 cluster had emerged on France’s six metro systems, 26 tram and light rail networks or numerous urban bus routes.