20201019 The Loneliness of the Long Distance Manager

The debate over opening borders remains hidebound in politics rather than reality: it makes no sense to ban the holders of passports from a particular country.

Countries have long managed infections of serious disease with reference to travel history.

That has been to take action of some form against those who have been to an infected area within a set period of time.

When governments are talking about ″travel bubbles″ they are, these days, talking about bubbles for each others’ citizens. There is a a reason for it: as part of a bilateral bubble arrangement, express agreement can be made with regard to healthcare for the other party’s citizens. But can we trust bubbles?

Apparently not: the Trans-Tasman Bubble – between Australia and New Zealand – allowed for passengers on flights between designated areas.
Due to the high infection rates in Melbourne which is seeing a lockdown being released, no flights went there.

But travellers simply booked to fly to Sydney, then a domestic flight to Melbourne. Their passports did not, of course, show that domestic trip.
So, it’s clear – what is really needed is to take account of travel history – at least as a significant factor given equal precedence with nationality.
There is great debate over the question of airport testing.

It seems to be working in Hong Kong. Yes, the border is not fully open but it is relatively open compared to many others.

The system is that arriving passengers are tested on disembarkation and must remain in the airport until their results are known which is usually about 12 hours.
Then, if they are negative, they must immediately go home and isolate themselves, even from their own families, for 14 days.

Malaysia has a variation: arrivals are taken directly to an approved quarantine centre – usually a nice hotel often in Kuala Lumpur city centre – where they are isolated individually or in a family unit in a room and tested on arrival and again just before the days’ quarantined period is up.

Those arriving are responsible for the fees which can reach almost GBP1,000.

This system is because people, including at least one senior politician, refused to stay at home for quarantine when required to do so, even though that home quarantine is less stringent than that required in Hong Kong.

In both cases, there has been a dramatic reduction in imported cases and, by the strategic use of lock-downs of various degrees of severity, there have been – until something goes wrong – dramatic reductions in domestic transmission.

In Hong Kong, the infection map shows a fascinating skewing of rates: the Island and outlying islands and the New Territories have a far lower infection rate that Tsim Sha Tsui, the tip of the mainland.

In Malaysia, the mainland was doing exceptionally well but uncontrolled movements between Sabah, which had a serious but contained problem centred, mainly, around a detention camp, and the Mainland saw cases carried back first by recreational divers and then by those involved in the Sabah state election.

Another significant outbreak in Kedah on the mainland near the border with Thailand, has also seen people moving around.

The country has gone from about a dozen cases a day to, now, consistently above 800 per day in about three weeks. Controls on movement have now been re-imposed in a several districts.

Added to all of this is that there is the prospect of ″Long Covid-19″ which is now becoming apparent.

How much of a problem it is remains uncertain. The attention being paid to it in the media is probably not represented by the statistics – but so far there are not enough statistics to give a clear impression.

Need we be overly concerned about ″Long CoVid-19″?