Since the SARS-CoV-2 virus began in China, the country is well ahead of the rest of the world in dealing with it. Though they officially defeated the virus, there were reasons to be skeptical it had been eradicated completely.
For instance neighborhoods were paid for reporting zero new cases. Now they’re facing new cases near their border with Russia and North Korea and they’re working on testing all 11 million residents of Wuhan over the course of 10 days. In contrast the U.S. has tested just shy of 10 million people in total.
According to China’s aviation regulator air travel declined,
- 71.7% year-over-year in March
- 68.5% year-over-year in April
China officially ‘re-opened’ in early March. Even Wuhan’s airport re-started flights April 8. Recovery has not come quickly, with travel still down substantially and April barely better than March.
Travel isn’t returning quickly to China, and if you want to see what two months into our future looks like the Chinese experience is certainly one clue. So is the risk of continued flare ups in the virus, which will scare people even further away from flying.
Cases of COVID-19 have stabilized in much of the world (excluding places including Russia, Brazil and India). Not everywhere has social distanced to the same extent, but exponential spread has broadly ceased. Perhaps that means super spreaders have been infected and some distancing measures get the reproduction number down to about 1.
However the virus continues to spread, and lockdowns in the U.S. won’t stop that. So the advisability of the most extreme measures for all but the most vulnerable of populations rests of how close a vaccine or cure seems. If it’s close, lockdowns can make sense. If it’s not then lockdowns won’t reduce the number of poeple who ultimately contract the virus and won’t lead to materially better outcomes.
We may be able to travel again, but that doesn’t mean many people will quickly. And that’s bad news for U.S. airlines who are cutting costs and loading up on debt. They should make it through 2020 intact, but unless they start seeing revenue growth 2021 may be another story. Watching air travel recovery in places like China, South Korea, and Taiwan that have done the best battling the virus will be one clue. Another will be watching the recovery of air travel in places where the virus is merely mitigated.