China’s Aerospace Expansion Has Significantly Intensified Coronavirus Epidemic

More than anything else, the coronavirus afflicting China and beyond is a human tragedy. Pointing fingers is pointless, but it’s clear that a burgeoning air travel industry in China has made the situation worse.

A recent analysis points to the virus’s impact of the (otherwise fast-growing) aviation sector in China.

“In 2005, two years after the first SARS outbreak, there were only 233 international air routes from mainland China,” states an article by the infectious disease specialist Dan Werb.

“By 2016, international routes had more than tripled to 739, meaning there were far more routes for the virus to take out of the country.

“During the same period,” he wrote, “the number of international air passengers traveling in and out of China exploded from around three million to over 51 million.

“In short, China’s increasingly outward-facing stance has greatly expanded the environment within which the Wuhan coronavirus can propagate,” Werb says.

He notes that the strength of an epidemic, its potential for havoc, depends on a “triangle” – the virus itself, the susceptibility of the population, and the environment – with this last being exacerbated by the number of people traveling in, and from, China.

“As China’s economy has expanded, the number of Chinese citizens taking to the skies has risen astronomically,” he notes. Lunar New Year travel made it all worse: “the world’s largest human migration, with as many as three billion planned trips by car, train and plane within China over a two-week period.”

“In the case of the Wuhan coronavirus,” Werb concludes, “what should trouble us the most is the rapid expansion of the environment across which the pathogen can infect its hosts, which maps neatly over China’s emergence as a global superpower.”