ALLAN KESSING. Unregulated Global Health Experiment by Airlines.

Apr 30, 2020

NATO and most western armies switched from macho big-bore rifles to 7.62mm for the strategic reason that a wounded enemy requires far more resources than a dead one.

An infectious, but not especially lethal, virus – recent ABC RN service announcements state that C19 “[…] is a mild disease and most people recover quickly” – which incapacitates large numbers has overturned  40 years of neoliberal economic triumphalism so suddenly, is bizarre in the extreme.

The least unexpected aspect of the current global pandemic is its ubiquity though the alacrity of the spread.

An early novel of catastrophic disease, George R Stewart’s “Earth Abides” (1949), had global trade and rapid air travel as the main vectors.

It was hardly rapid in modern terms – at the time London-Sydney was measured in days with half a dozen landings & a multiple overnight stays en route and cost 3 years average wage until the advent of jets.

Qantas introduced 707s introduced in 1959 and in April 1960 the fastest trip from Sydney to London was 34 hr 30 min with eight stops.

However, the outbreaks all over the world – every continent, including countries not noted for being high on the jet-setting itinerary – more or less simultaneously, politically compromised reportage notwithstanding, suggest some extra element.

In the case of the plague ship Ruby Princess – the font of a sizeable proportion of C19 cases in NSW and nationwide – the source is STB a steward in the galley.

Consider flight crews – the average passenger liner has at least 20, feeding, watering and generally tending up to 300 people in a hermetically sealed environment/test tube, everyone breathing recycled air and sharing toilet facilities.

The public & corporate awareness of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), due to corporate bean-counting constantly decreasing the already cramped seating in zoo class has meant that passengers are allowed, when not encouraged, to pace the aisles to keep their blood flowing.

It is now the norm for galley space to be open to allow passengers to help themselves to snacks, fruit juice, uncovered fruit (eg apples) and generally infringe sanitary conditions in a way that would not be permitted in any other public food preparation area.

After landing the aircrew, when in foreign parts, normally to pile into a company coach, with other crew from diverse points of origin, to stay at the same hotel to recover from the stress, strain and sleep deprivation.

When again on duty, generally within 48hrs, they will then regroup on the next job, with different colleagues who also recently arrived from other excitingly dubious points of departure.

It is well known that access to antibiotics in many countries is unregulated, to put it mildly.

The inclination of aircrew to self medicate with such easily acquired items to deal with the usual lurgies encountered on the job is strong, not to say essential, to continue what is often mistaken for a highly paid job.

I wonder how many epidemiologists the major airlines employ and, the sanctity of personal medical records aside, do they ever chat with their international colleagues about the massive public-health experiment in which they are involved?

The recent ABC RN service announcements that C19 “it is a mild disease and most people recover quickly”. The main “danger” seems to be its contagious nature.

Yet governments throughout the western world, followed by their 3rd World client states, would not be going so nuts based on the publicly available information.

The majority of these governments are right-wing neoliberal and the many well reasoned & impassioned counterarguments that rampant greed is not good and the overextended, just-in-time supply chains inherent to globalisation didn’t wash for half a century yet this ideology has been overturned in a couple of weeks.

The previous talk of herd immunity is now down the memory hole. Recent evidence that infection & survival may not confer immunity means that a vaccine remains speculation.

When one looks at the massive social, psychological & economic disruption the official panic has caused the reason(s) so far proffered seem inadequate.

Allan Kessing is a retired civil servant.

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