At the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, the message was all about flattening the curve to stay ahead of the virus, but is travel still going to return once the curve is flattened?
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Flattening The Curve
When COVID-19 first started carving its way around the world, the concern was being able to treat sick people in hospital beds. The “curve” represented the rise that could be absorbed by hospitals and the goal was to slow the infection to ensure that hospitals were not overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients to the point the system wouldn’t be able to handle the influx. The goal was to suppress infections to a sustainable level.
According to Johns Hopkins University, that curve has flattened in most states. In particular, the most populous states with the exception of Texas and North Carolina have succeeded in that endeavor – though the timeline might have been longer than desirable.
Return of Life and Travel As We Know It
Once the virus was under control, life was expected to return to normal as we knew it before. That was never going to happen in at least one sense. The world and her citizenry would be more vigilant with sanitation, more cautious of being in public ill, and companies quicker to act substantially at the first sign of a new virus.
Some companies have so adeptly altered their basic business constructs that perhaps the world would never be the same again regardless. Including, and especially with regard to travel for employees.
While everyone may be wary of mass crowds for some time, the thought of never again heading through a crowded security checkpoint doesn’t seem realistic.
What’s The New Goal?
The curve has been flattened, but the virus isn’t gone. But that was never the goal, at least not a practical one. The virus may remain for years, or worse, decades. Even with a vaccine, polio took four decades to eradicate, the influenza vaccine is widely available but still claims up to 61,000 lives every year in the US alone. That’s for a virus that is a mostly known entity, COVID-19 was novel so while 200,000 people is an incredibly large number (94% with an average of 2.6 co-morbidities, 6% purely COVID-19), in a few years time, it may be equal to the flu or even less.
So what is the new goal? After all, the original parameter was simply to make the virus serviceable by hospitals. Now that the curve has been mostly flattened (if not entirely in the US), it seems that the new goal is full eradication. If that’s the case, will we never return to moving around the world? Will it only be in the event of an effective vaccine? What will be the benchmark for effectiveness? Is the Flu vaccine an effective comparison?
Many of these questions are rhetorical. My point is that as long and painful as 2020 has been – and it has been all of that more – if the goalposts for a return to travel keep moving, it will be impossible to achieve them. The public won’t continue on in this regard indefinitely, especially if a vaccine is the new goalpost and it’s not reached for many years.
While flattening the curve was originally the criteria for travel returning to normal, it seems the goalposts have moved to a vaccine. That could take years and cost millions of jobs around the world and is simply untenable. There won’t be any airlines left to fly, no hotels left to stay in. We need to be true to the original guidance, and if the curve is flattened, it’s time to get back to travelling.
What do you think? Why have the goalposts moved? Do you think the curve is flattened? Is progress temporary?