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When it’s safe to restart airline travel in COVID-19 pandemic. 8
You are a leading expert in public health and infectious diseases. Travel has been severely disrupted for almost a year now. Europe, the US, or Australia have been essentially cut off from each other. Do you think that now is the time to expand airline travel? How to do that safely at this time?
I think it’s too premature right now. But there will come a time, maybe in a few months, where we will see a drastic reduction in COVID-19 infections. We hope to see a drastic reduction in COVID-19 or a substantial reduction in mortality depending on how much the risk groups are covered [by vaccination]. So if that time comes, when there is a reduction in COVID-19 mortality early on, and there is a reduction in COVID-19 transmission as well. Even if it’s not to the highest level, there may be time to open up certain travel kinds before the other. So obviously, some travel is still happening. But there may be a time where we can expand things safely. I think we will continue to have a multi-tiered approach even while traveling, where some of the restrictions or some of the recommendations for social distancing, masking, etc., may remain there. But slowly, things will open up, especially in between countries that can bring down the COVID-19 outbreaks, the rates of the infection, pretty drastically.
There are the new South African variants and other variants named after countries, which is perhaps unfortunate. Nevertheless, so there will probably be certain travel corridors being opened at first between the regions or adjacent countries, and then between the far-flung travel.
Yeah, and depending on that, and depending on the similarity in the epidemiology of COVID-19 disease. [Travel increase will depend ] on also how much, what proportion of the population is protected from COVID-19. What is the risk that you’re taking by opening up travel? And so forth. So I think that will have to be harmonized, but these decisions are a few months away. At a larger level, there are only a few countries that are even approaching meaningful [COVID-19 vaccination] coverage to consider those decisions right away. I think that travel increase will come in a few months.
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