The headlines are one thing. But social media have pumped up the volume significantly. Here are two examples that caught our attention so far: item #1 A barber in China, item #2 A traffic stop in China. But this is one of the weirdest ever. CNBC has a story titled: “Coronavirus is threatening to end the world air-travel boom”. Who needs to watch TV or read a newspaper to get scared?
For an unexciting, but credible, a source for COVID-19 updates visit the US CDC. The quick spread outside Wuhan is almost certainly due to air travel. What else could spread the virus so quickly? Meanwhile, for US travelers (and everyone else), the CD offethese useful links.
CDC has issued the following travel guidance related to COVID-19:
- China — Level 3, Avoid Nonessential Travel — updated February 22;
- South Korea — Level 3, Avoid Nonessential Travel — updated February 24;
- Japan — Level 2, Practice Enhanced Precautions — updated February 22;
- Iran — Level 2, Practice Enhanced Precautions — issued February 23;
- Italy — Level 2, Practice Enhanced Precautions — issued February 23;
- Hong Kong — Level 1, Practice Usual Precautions — issued February 19.
- CDC also recommends that all travelers reconsider cruise ship voyages into or within Asia at this time.
The CDC reports that as of February 23, 2020, there were 76,936 reported cases in mainland China and 1,875 cases in locations outside mainland China. There have been 2,462 associated deaths worldwide.
For perspective, using the CDC again: CDC estimates that influenza has resulted in between 9 million – 45 million illnesses, between 140,000 – 810,000 hospitalizations and between 12,000 – 61,000 deaths annually since 2010.
The flu kills between 12,000 and 61,000 people per year in the USA. Using the same link immediately above, the CDC estimates 34,157 deaths from flu in the USA last winter. COVID-19 isn’t even close. Euronews has a handy link to various conspiracies about COVID-19.
Is the panic warranted? Bill Blain in London has an excellent take on this: “It doesn’t matter if it’s just a flu. The reality is economic damage has been done, and the next stage – a nervous volatile market – is beginning to take on a momentum all of its own as global infections breakout like penicillin on a piece of mouldy cheese.”
Airlines are offering passengers all sorts of flexibility on bookings. Some airlines are delaying aircraft deliveries. Several Asian airlines are parking aircraft for want of traffic. China and Japan have closed schools. The stock market took a nasty dive.
Global reaction to COVID-19 appears a bit overdone. Like Bill Blain, the global reaction doesn’t make sense to Tom Porcelli, the chief U.S. economist at RBC Capital Markets. These gentlemen are not alone. Perhaps the asset bubble that has been building for years just needed an excuse to pop?
Perhaps travelers should use this opportunity to make early bookings at great pricing for their travel. Also, airports and planes are much less packed. Remember that sage advice: ‘Buy the Rumor, Sell the News’