According to a new report from ACI Europe, an increase in air passenger volumes are not correlated to any level of statistical significance with changes in Covid-19 infection (positivity) rates in Europe. The presence of such a report begs the question, “Really?”
Now get this. No, really, please get this. GTP and other media outlets are reporting the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) contending that “travel restrictions are not effective in situations where community transmission is already present – as is the case across Europe.” In other words, we are all already doomed, so why worry!
So, in a cynical “other words” every official in Europe is full of crap and tourism should have been booming all summer long! The head of ACI Jost Lammers goes on to suggest quarantine of infected persons needs to be replaced by COVID testing. But of course, more advanced and comprehensive testing is needed.
However, ACI’s report betrays the fact that current testing is not sufficient. Saying that air passenger volumes have absolutely nothing to do with infection rates means that not a single soul has crossed a border on an airplane with COVID. At least this is what the contention means for many. Let me address this study, bluntly. Lammers’ report bites off its own tail with this disclaimer:
“It is essential to note that this note does not suggest that aviation has no role in the transmission of viruses. Indeed, a substantial
number of papers have documented how air travel at the initial stages of a novel virus have led to its transmission. This analysis aims
to consider the role of air transport during a time period when the virus is already present in the population.”
Here’s my take. Airports Council International Europe | ACI EUROPE is about keeping airports open and thriving. It’s about business and business as usual. Now here’s the thing about studies to show the pandemic is unaffected by air travelers at this time. Air passenger traffic is down more than 86% according to ACI’s data. This means the odds of a passenger-carrying COVID-19 to another country are reduced in the same fashion – even more, if we consider testing and quarantine measures. I only wish I had the resources to hire my own number crunchers to further debunk this ridiculous contention. In my view, even 1 passenger aboard an aircraft carrying COVID-19 is statistically important.
Look at this comprehensive report on COVID-19’s Impact on European Air Traffic from EUROCONTROL. For the months suggested, total air traffic was down about 60% compared to 2019. I selected one report at random, just to get a handle on the numbers ACI is using. According to the figures from July 30th, domestic flights dominated the skies over Europe. This makes me wonder if ACI’s figures and insinuations are based on domestic, international, and Intra-European travelers? This report is all about airlines recovering, as is the case with almost every report we are seeing. These people are using data and not science to inform the public about COVID-19 transmission. Let me show you.
A study completed back in August of this year for the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) Ecosystems Services and Management Program brought the result that cross-country transmission processes, specifically via international flight connections, played a particularly important role in the early stages of the virus’ spread. Furthermore, the researchers proved that the shutdown of international airports and border closures were indeed important policies to prevent further spillovers across countries. Hello!
“The study clearly demonstrates that cross-border air traffic is a very important channel for spread of COVID-19, and as opposed to land travel where the spread is geographically limited, air traffic allows the virus to jump countries and continents in a very short time.”
The reader should know that IIASA is funded by a host of supporters with interests in independent, interdisciplinary research into pressing global problems. ACI International’s funding is provided in part by ACI’s network of 600 firms representing every region. So, to put it even more bluntly (clearly) IIASA and other study based organizations have a vested interest in being correct on the science. Organizations like ACI are vested in organizing data to support the goals of their sponsors. In this case, the goal is to get all those passengers back in the air.
Here in Greece authorities are vehemently insisting that very few of the new cases recorded are coming from tourists. Locals do not believe the statistics, and looking back at a few of the reports more than half of the new cases on some days were attributed to travelers. The fact that the number of cases now is 20x what it was before the country opened to tourists, has not gone unnoticed either. The first recorded cases of COVID-19 in Greece were people who had traveled to Italy.
Do we need more and better testing at entry points? Absolutely. Does air passenger volume have zero effect on new waves of COVID-19? So far, nobody has proven this, and nobody really can in my opinion. The suggestion goes against every law of science our professors taught us. And the fact that the people suggesting such a thing are only interested in airport traffic just causes my alarm systems to go off.
What we need science, real science, put into play in order to create a global response. Or, a vaccine that is 100% foolproof, and fast. Relying on officials and NGOs bent on better business, it’S getting a lot of people killed.
This has to change. And Mr. Lammers, you need to learn the definition of “any level of statistical significance“, especially when discussing issues that deal with human lives. The world is not made up entirely of bean counters. In fact, there are a lot more of us normal people.