Friday, June 26, 2020

Three worlds

I was saddened, but not surprised, to hear the Qantas CEO say that he did not expect international travel to resume from and to Australia until after June 2021.  Saddened, because Julie and I were hoping our postponed six month hike on the Continental Divide Trail in the US would happen next year.  Not surprised, because I don't see how the COVID-19 pandemic can be contained until a vaccine is available and vast populations have been innoculated.

Early morning swimmers at Terrigal this morning (courtesy Julie)
Australia, along with countries such as New Zealand, Taiwan, South Korea, Vietnam and China, seem to have a very good chance of suppressing the virus to very low levels, with occasional quickly-addressed hotspot outbreaks.  But most other countries in the world seem unlikely to be as successful.  I'm thinking of those located in Europe, the Americas, Asia (with the exception of those listed above) and Africa.  I think the more developed countries in this latter group are going decide to live with a level of coronavirus so long as their hospital systems are not overwhelmed, and reopen their borders to international travellers.

Italy (averaging 224 new identified cases per day), for example, is already allowing international travel, without quarantine, from many countries where the virus is still widespread, such as the UK (still averaging 1,000 new identified cases per day).

The Haven at dawn this morning (courtesy Julie)
Until a vaccine is available and deployed, I can envisage the world evolving into three groupings within each of which quarantine-free international travel will be allowed.  The "suppressed" group, where there is little or no COVID-19 present, the "managed" group, where there is significant COVID-19, but there are effective control efforts and the hospitals are coping, and an "uncontrolled" group, where COVID-19 is everywhere and facilities are stretched.  There will be limited quarantined travel between the groups.

This will pose a test for the Australian authorities.  Do they want to participate in the wider business and recreation travel recovery promised by membership of the "managed" group, or do they want to retain their purity by participating in a much smaller grouping?  I suspect Australia will stick with the "suppressed" group, but the pressure is going to build to join the "managed" group as time goes by and we see travel in much of the rest of the developed world resume.

This conundrum is not dissimilar, in relative terms, to that faced by the Australian states where there is currently no community transmission of the virus.  Do they want to remain in the "eradicated" group, and keep their borders closed, or do they want to enjoy the economic benefits of joining the "suppressed" group of States?

I endured another 30 minutes on the bike trainer for exercise today, still feeling like I'm on an improving injury trend, but not getting carried away.

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