´Sst!´ sign on a TMB bus, Source: Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona

Silence on Barcelona transit to ensure less Covid-19 transmissions

Silence on Barcelona transit to ensure less Covid-19 transmissions

When masks might not be enough, shushing is the next step

The Barcelona metropolitan transport operator TMB announced last week the start of a new awareness campaign on its vehicles called ‘Sst!’. The onomatopoeic expression refers to the English ‘Shh!’ or the sound one makes when trying to shush other people. It is accompanied by the slogan: "We and you make #UnViatgeSegur" (the hashtag message means ‘a safe trip’ in Catalan).

The idea behind it is to encourage commuters to restrict unnecessary conversations and, in this way, also lower the possibility of airborne coronavirus transmissions. As is well known by now, this infection is easily spread by aerosols and this is, even more, the case for some of the newer mutations of the virus.

A new measure that may prove to be useful, but also controversial

Naturally, many people might object to the idea and feel that a basic freedom has been threatened. Furthermore, during the past year, the COVID pandemic has given fertile grounds for many rumours and conspiracy theories to blossom.

Yet, for TMB there is enough scientific evidence already to rationally back such a measure and to add it as an additional tool in the arsenal of what we already have in order to withstand the coronavirus transmissions.

The transport operator reminds passengers that they must still wear masks, use hand sanitiser and avoid consuming food and drinks while onboard a vehicle or waiting at the stations. However, not talking would also help the collective effort since it would mean fewer aerosols in the air, which are the unavoidable by-product of communication.

That being said, the TMB website describes the new measure as a recommendation, rather than an obligation or a prohibition to be penalized. So, ultimately it is left up to the commuters’ own sense of responsibility and concern to decide on how much they will speak and whether they can wait while they are outside of the transport operator’s network to have their next important talk with a friend or on the phone.

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