China’s Wuhan Airport Has Now Re-Opened

Wuhan Tianhe International Airport is 16 miles from the city center of Wuhan, capital of the Hubei province. As the epicenter of the initial COVID-19 breakout, it has been shut down since January 23.

The airport, which is a focus city for China Eastern, China Southern, and Air China, re-opened today. It has historically had non-stop flights to New York, San Francisco, London, Tokyo, Paris, Dubai, Sydney and other destinations in Europe and Asia.

The airport was disinfected on Friday. China’s Xinhua English-language news service has shared photos and videos of the process, which seems more about theater to convince people it’s safe to fly than an actual public health measure.

Wuhan Tianhe International Airport invited a team of 161 professionals to disinfect an area of around 570,000 square meters in Terminal 3.

The team disinfected main facilities such as benches, elevators and trolleys in the terminal.

The airport has also conducted training and assessments of key service personnel, run checks on major facilities such as fresh air systems, and conducted risk evaluations to prepare for resuming operations.

Disney theme parks are expected to add temperature sensors to identify sick guests. However that is at best a partial solution, since it won’t identify any pre-symptomatic individuals spreading the virus. It’s both about health and about convincing people to return to the parks.

There have been studies showing how long the novel coronavirus can last on various surfaces. Stretched out to a week, it’s unclear that enough of the virus survives to cause an infection. The Wuhan airport has been closed for about 10 weeks. The disinfection process is surely more for show than safety, as evidence by the government of China promoting videos of the event.

China has largely contained the virus, although perhaps not to the extent that the government reports. In publishing statistics showing only imported cases, they may be hiding domestic spread. After all when they pay local jurisdictions based on reporting zero cases that both encourages taking steps to limit spread and achieve zero cases, and also to hide any cases that do develop.

The concern at this point is less about Wuhan, than it is about a repeated spread in a second wave. That’s why China has placed restrictions on foreign arrivals, and has extensively screened international arrivals.

Looking to China gives us some sense of what is ahead in terms of continued restrictions on international travel even as the virus subsides, as well as how life itself changes based on changes in consumer preferences as people arise from their lockdowns.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. “invited a team of 161 professionals”

    Yeah, right. I think the word is “ordered”.

  2. I think at best if their government report zero case then let’s take it at that. I don’t think their government is stupid enough to invite a second wave just for profit like the us (I’m assuming here no pun intended). Only times will tell. Let’s give the “benefit of a doubt” motto that we are familiar with here in the US. Unless, you got source that supports 100% they are lying.Thanks

  3. That’s really fascinating that they pay local jurisdictions based on reporting zero cases. I totally believe that, and that’s super crazy. Do you have an article about that I could send friends (and people like Leslie here who seem very unaware of China’s information manipulation)? (I tried, but maybe my Google-fu is too weak)

  4. @Chris see for instance:

    “The district governments of the metropolis that comprises Wuhan — the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in China — have announced plans to give cash rewards to local residential areas that have successfully curbed the spread of COVID-19.

    The incentive rules stipulate that regions and large facilities, such as rural villages and apartment complexes, will receive up to 500,000 yuan ($72,000) for reporting no new cases of infection.”

    By the way China only counts people with a positive test and symptoms, anyone who tests positive and is asymptomatic doesn’t go into the numbers

    For deaths the exclude people where there’s another cause, there are reports based on urn purchases and lines at funeral homes that deaths may be 8x – 10x what’s officially reported…

  5. There will probably be a stigma attached to the Wuhan International Airport for a rather long time. I can’t think foreign airports will look forward to receiving direct flights from Covid19’s birthplace any time soon.

  6. This is perfect, Gary, thanks! I knew about the death toll numbers being basically fabricated (and both the US and UK have already mentioned they’re looking into what the real numbers are). It amazes me how many places report those numbers without any asterisk or caveat despite how extremely questionable they are. Not to mention the implausibility of going from ground zero to “no new cases” in a matter of weeks.

    So many heartbreaking stories of people whose loved ones passed and weren’t treated with respect, dismal conditions in temporary hospitals and quarantine facilities, etc.

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