Since hindsight is 20/20… this is what I would have done with COVID-19.
In late January, announce that the international borders will be closed within 10 hours of the announcement. The 10 hour buffer allows any current en route flights to land without issue. Empty inbound international flights are still allowed in order to accommodate any outbound international flights. The crews from these inbound flights will be sequestered to just two or three hotels only. This action isolates the crew so to allow contact tracing to be easier in case of outbreaks. Domestic travel can still operate normally until otherwise told.
I think if just this measure was put in place there might not have been an outbreak in both Seattle and New York. It’s still possible the cases could appear as there were only 15 confirmed cases back on Feb 15, 2020. Given the incubation length and the potentila asymptomatic transmission possibility, a January closure would have mitigated the most damage. According to the NY times interactive modeling, the 15 early cases were linked to transmission from China. However, what’s more important is that any subsequent cases would be linked to these 15 cases AND there would be no new influx of cases. Although travel was restricted from China on Feb 02, 2020, restrictions were imposed far too late from Europe on Mar 13, 2020. Between late January and mid-March, countless travelers passed through the international airports and silently spreading the infection. Through genetic testing, the outbreak in New York was linked to a European strain. It shows just how partial restrictions are pointless.
If these borders were to have been closed in late January, I see a number of different scenarios that would be different
- COVID-19 cases would be limited and probably very manageable by the healthcare professionals
- Stay-at-Home requirements might never have been issued
- Businesses would remain open
- Healthcare system would function at normal capacity without needing to be in constant emergency “war zone” mode
- No Masks
- No Social Distancing
What would you do?