Monday 13 July 2020 9:37 am

Transport for London trials thermal cameras to spot Covid symptoms

Buses operated by Transport for London (TfL) are being scanned with thermal imaging cameras in a new trial aimed at spotting fevers on public transport, as the capital begins to return to life after months of lockdown.

Thermal imaging cameras detect small changes in temperature from a distance using infrared technology, and are used to test if somebody has an unusually high temperature, which is a key symptom of coronavirus.

The technology is being trialled on bus operators such as Abellio, Metroline, Arriva, Go Ahead, RATP Dev and Stagecoach.

Claire Mann, TfL’s director of bus operations, said: “We are trialling a range of temperature testing equipment for drivers and staff at a number of our bus garages to see if they can play a role in our commitment to protect our staff and customers during the pandemic.

“We’re working with the Transport Research Laboratory, Unite the Union, and several bus operators on these trials, and will make a decision on whether to widely introduce any of these measures as more data on their effectiveness becomes available.”

Metroline, one of the companies that runs London buses, has started scanning drivers arriving at work and logging their temperatures in a bid to prevent virus circulation among bus staff. Bus drivers in the UK have been among the most at risk categories of coronavirus victims, with 26.4 deaths per 100,000 drivers. 

It comes after TfL last week revealed it is trialling innovative virus-killing methods to minimise the spread of the disease on public transport. 

TfL said it is testing the use of UV light cleaning on Tube handrails, following reports that UV radiation damages the genetic material of the virus and its ability to reproduce. 

“The device, which could help supplement TfL’s extensive anti-viral cleaning regime, is connected to the escalator handrail and uses its motion to power a UV bulb that breaks down surface contamination to sanitise the handrail,” TfL said in a statement. 

“TfL is now assessing the benefits of the technology, which could be installed more widely in the future.”

Face masks were made mandatory in mid-June and TfL staff have implemented frequent cleaning rotas using “hospital grade disinfectant”. 

TfL transport commissioner Andy Byford said: “As customers continue to return in greater numbers as pandemic restrictions are gradually eased, there are some simple steps that everyone can take to ensure they stay safe. This includes travelling at quieter times, regular hand cleaning and staying alert to the latest Government advice.

“We all want London to continue to get back on its feet, and TfL is fully focussed on supporting this as we strive to make sure that customers and staff are safe.” 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week U-turned on the current work from home guidance, and urged people to return to their normal working practices if possible. 

“It’s very important that people should be going back to work if they can now,” said the PM. “I think everybody has sort of taken the ‘stay at home if you can’ — I think we should now say, well, ‘go back to work if you can’”.

However, current advice remains that people should avoid public transport unless their journey is essential, which could present difficulties for commuters who rely on London’s Tube and buses to get to work.

TfL is now operating 94 per cent of peak weekday services on the Tube and 94 per cent of bus services. 

Southwark is one of seven Tube stations which will reopen today after months of closure, along with Hyde Park Corner, Arsenal, Kilburn Park, Swiss Cottage, Clapham South and Hampstead.

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