If you have read the NYTimes.com recently, or any news outlet for that matter, you would think that China is doing nothing to stop the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak of 2020. Over 2,000 people have died so far from the illness and more than 74k have been diagnosed, and nearly 150 million people in China alone, quarantined to their homes. This, combined with a media scare that happened last week about contaminated items shipped from China – it’s a scary time for traveling. While US and other country’s passenger carriers have suspended flights to China, most cargo carriers have not.
But in the life of an airline pilot, the trips must go on. Our mail and packages have to get to the United States somehow, and the airlines potentially risk illness for their employees (and their family and friends) for the surity of e-commerce. Of note, their operations are also critical to delivering medical supplies and other assistance during the outbreak. Both UPS and FedEx have delivered medical supplies in the recent weeks. Additionally, both UPS and FedEx have agreed to make China flying “voluntary” for their pilots.
So what is like for our airline professionals traveling in China? One of our pilots at the Milieux Project reports that it is much harder to get through immigration. For one, her normal airline privileges are no longer enough – there is additional medical screening along with forms and ever-changing additional requirements. Also, there are a lot more temperature checks everywhere she goes. On a recent trip, her temperature was checked three times as she transitioned from mainland China to Hong Kong, twice during her ride from the border to her hotel, and once more as she checked into the hotel. They want to know if she has any symptoms associated with the virus, which may lead to quarantine to help stop the spread of the virus.
China is taking these precautions seriously, reducing staff (and sometimes using robots as room service) in the hotels, establishing additional roadside health checks and quarantining those that show symptoms related to the virus, just to ensure the maximum protection from it spreading.
Neighboring countries are taking precautions as well. The checks and balances placed on anyone indicating recent travel from mainland China are ever-changing. With all the precautions in place, the chances of being exposed to the virus is extremely low, but there can never be enough precautions to isolate an outbreak. So we are cautiously optimistic, especially as new cases in China appear to be slowing.
You may not know all of this from most US reports, however, so Milieux Project wanted to communicate that precautions and measures are in place to protect those that must continue to work in and through China during the COVID-19 outbreak. Pilots and aircrew are protected and safe from any disease outbreak in the world. Feel good about exploring the world!