Prior to 2020 the projections for the growth in air traffic globally projected by Statista was 4.1% which represented a slight decline from 2019’s 4.2% projection. As the reality of the pandemic hit country after country air traffic has been cut by nearly half according to The Guardian’s an analysis of the data from Flightradar24 when comparing the week starting March 18th to March 23rd.
As I write this I am in a nationwide quarantine in Colombia and while I wasn’t worried about the coronavirus when I flew here now I would be very apprehensive about getting on a flight to anywhere but especially back to Canada since if I get COVID-19 I would put my parents at risk.
It is one of the reasons why I stayed in Colombia even when there was at least some chance of going home before they imposed the self-isolation restrictions to everyone coming into Canada from abroad. It ends up easier to stay here and at this point feels safer if not only for me but for my family, parents in particular than it would to go home.
As of this writing no one knows what will happen a month or a few months done the road but all indications look like this entire period will not end quickly. Most people know this will get much worse before it gets better. On April 2nd Reuters reported that International Flight capacity has dropped by almost 80% from a year ago and that over half of all air planes are parked.
I can’t say I am all that thrilled with the prospect of getting on an air plane during the pandemic even if the risk is smaller than ever with anyone exhibiting symptoms being not allowed to fly.
Part of the problem is that COVID-19 can be spread by people with no symptoms and that risk hangs ominously in the air for anyone who would want to fly. Even now if I were to go back to Canada because I don’t have my own place back in Canada I would have to self-isolate for at least 14 days.
It would mean I would have to find a place to be alone for 2 weeks where I wouldn’t be a risk to others like my parents or anyone else. This is the invisible threat posed by those who are either asymptomatic or presymptomatic.
When the Centre of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) took a look at the coronavirus patients on the ill fated Diamond Princess, of the 712 positive cases almost half showed no symptoms at the time.
This ScienceAlert article goes on to really dive into the data to show how big asymptomatic or presymptomatic spread could be and is the reason I and probably many other people are not looking at a flight as the gateway to a new adventure but as a game of Russian roulette.
When will the world get back to any semblance of normal? No one knows, as the coronavirus has no treatment, as there will be no vaccine for at least 18 months to two years everyone is in the dark trying to find a way to survive.
It means that social distancing is becoming the new normal and that airlines once seen as our way to see the world has because of that very fact been the instrument that spread the coronavirus across the world.
It means now and as long as there is no effective treatment or vaccine against the coronavirus it is hard to see a flight as anything but an unnecessary risk. I was already abroad when the coronavirus hit North America hard. I didn’t really think about it much and now I can’t help but see a flight as a risk not just to me but everyone.
Who knows when this will be over or what will happen but it means that my fear of flying isn’t because of a fear of heights but of getting COVID-19 and being a risk to others. This is the world we live in, a world that is more connected right now than it has been ever before but in some ways is so far apart and the novel coronavirus has now made all of us have to be physically distant from everyone in a way that has ever been seen before.
In the 102 years since the Spanish flu pandemic we have seen a transformation in how we live and work. What will the world look like post the novel coronavirus? No one knows, the cost has already been tremendous, the pain being felt by people all around the world as entire nations have had to shut down.
The world might not return to what it was before, it might mean that we will have to find a new normal even when the threat of COVID-19 passes. Maybe it will mean everyone will have N95 masks when they fly or that people will be less willing to fly given how the coronavirus was spread. I know as of this writing I won’t be able to think about flying without knowing that is how the coronavirus has spread, without fearing I could catch it and thus be a risk to others.
This is the world we live in right now, I hope it is temporary, that we can all learn from it and use it as a chance to make sure this never happens agian.