June 19, 2020, ©. Leeham News: In our Corner series about flying during the COVID-19 pandemic, we look at opening up traveling and how re-emerging infection clusters can be handled.
With a four-month pandemic history, several studies now detail what effects different prevention actions have. Once the general spreading of the virus is under control in a country, authorities can then use these tools to engage in point actions rather than general lockdowns.
I continue to base data on the NDR podcasts with Professor Drosten, the lead virologist of Berliner Charite’, the top German research hospital. I do it because he penetrates and discusses the latest worldwide study results in an easy to understand and thoughtful way.
But first, traveling is picking up ahead of holidays in the northern hemisphere. My inbox is full of airlines detailing their destinations for the summer and their actions against COVID-19. The will to travel is coming back evidenced by booking rates for the next months.
Authorities are reducing travel restrictions in steps based on how controlled their COVID situation is. The European Union yesterday presented an app detailing the conditions for travel to countries in the union. Figure 1 shows the phone app.
Here an example from the Web app (Figure 2) where I want to know the conditions for a trip to Italy.
The reduction in restrictions is possible when virus transmissions levels are under control in the origin and destination countries.
With the reduction of restrictions, the risk of increased transmissions is there. Different from the start of the pandemic, there are now studies that detail the effects of prevention actions:
The NDR podcasts detail the studies with more exact conditions of transmission values, as these are tied to specific demographics and how the preventions were done.
New studies also add to the knowledge of what mask-wearing brings. A recent study compared a town in Germany, Jena, that made masks wearing compulsory by April 6, whereas other parts of Germany and Denmark followed 20 days later.
A detailed study compared Jena with equivalent areas in Germany and Denmark, with corrections for other influences. It found the Jena death rate for people over 60 reduced with 50%, whereas overall, it reduced by 23%.
The availability of data for prevention actions enables authorities to crack down on emerging COVID clusters in targeted activities, once they have lowered the level of transmission in their area so the clusters stand out.
Several countries now introduce tracking apps to achieve the speed necessary to make such strategies efficient. If a resurgence of the virus can be controlled with targeted actions, a return to countrywide general lockdowns is no longer necessary.
Professor Drosten says it’s important we establish such tactics and tools now when the summer relieves the pressure of the pandemic, so the re-introduction of general lockdowns are no longer necessary when flu season begins in the autumn.