Study on the spread and mortality of the pandemic in western Europe shows that many lives could have been saved, and still could be, if international travel were greatly reduced

I don’t often post “editorial pieces” though my opinion is usually fairly transparent. Nonetheless, I try to avoid “directional” posts, but this is one such, today.

Although not a travel website, In Tenerife is obviously concerned with an island that is a significant tourist draw, and we have had quite a few discussions over recent weeks and months as to the value of tourism during a pandemic, and whether visitors were being selfish when they claimed they were just “in need of a holiday” when others were simply concerned about just being able to keep breathing.

Those who adopted that standpoint, including myself, have been on the receiving end of attitudes that were rather dismissive … when they weren’t outright insulting. And so, rather than rely on the general views of Facebook virology “experts”, HERE is a BMJ-published Aberdeen University Study on the effects of international travel on the spread and mortality of the pandemic in western Europe.

This is peer-reviewed science published in the British Medical Journal … not Facebook crapology. It finds that many lives could have been saved, and still could be saved, if people would only just stop moving around. The Study compares the 37 most severely affected countries and investigates the various ways in which transmission could have been affected, including demographic density and distribution, age, average body mass index and smoking prevalence … and found that the biggest factor was international travel.      

Some countries around the world are in the second wave. Others have come through it. Yet others are already in a third wave. The vaccination programme is set to take all of this year and some of next and will still in all likelihood not be complete at that point. And there are some experts who think that immunity will last all of six months and so we might need two vaccines a year. And it will take over 18 months to get through the main priority groups in the first vaccination programme! Vaccines alone are not going to do this for us.  

People can travel safely, but clearly not in the numbers they have done in the past. This is a whole new world, never mind a whole new normal.


  1. I’m sure you are right about banning international travel would save some lives, but…
    I wonder how many different lives would be lost triggered by the collapse of international economies and food supplies. Followed by rises in crime, robbery, burglary, drug use, suicide, murders and the simple collapse of law and order as whole swathes drop into unemployment and starvation.
    Fortunately we have found a middle way, so lets be grateful for that. This way was one of a range of measures and outcomes identified by the much maligned Professor Fergusson for the UK and has been adopted successfully by all of Europe and more.

    1. Author

      *sigh* I did not even mention let alone suggest banning international travel …

      closing this. There is indeed a middle way between mass cheap travel and a complete ban. That is what I was suggesting. Sadly it seems that even the suggestion is controversial. The planet will sort it out in its own good time since humans are incapable even of understanding a simple suggestion about the issue, let alone doing anything about it.

  2. The correlation in the study was between mortality in the first half of 2020 and international travel in 2018. There is no way that this can be a causal relationship and so the theme must be the generality of mass tourism rather than what actually has happened since March 2020.

    As a resident of El Hierro I see “eco-tourism” in action with a limited influx of tourists here. Only on one day a week (currently suspended) is it possible to take a day return on the ferry – unlike the link with La Gomera that disgorges at 10.00 each morning at San Sebastian.

    Sadly it is likely that eco-tourism will always be the mode of a minority (as current takers could well eschew it if it became a majority mode). I suspect that the aspirations evinced by Janet are unlikely to be realised – unless a substantive change occurs in human nature.

    Meanwhile those who do not like the ambience of the tourist attractions on Tenerife can migrate to La Palma (population about a tenth that of Tenerife) or even get away from it all even more remotely on El Hierro. This island was very remote in 1989 when I first came and I am pleased to have discovered it when I did – although I did not move here until the internet removed some of the practical disadvantages of the prior remoteness.

  3. As a species we have done more harm to this planet than any other. That’s progress I guess?

    But now, as a species we can see, have demonstrated, and agreed (?) that we must change our ways in order to reverse this harm.

    Thing is, in reality, this means we (as individuals) have to make and accept significant change to the way we live, eat, travel etc, etc.

    Fat chance because as a species we want what we want and we want it now. It’s called selfish indulgence.

    Global tourisim is a classic example of that indulgence and covid has helped to highlight that. From the ‘jab and go’ mentality to the lobby groups who want things back to normal during a pandemic. It’s all unsustainable greed.

    The simple fact is that our species is too selfish, greedy and dismissive to embrace change despite the obvious need for it.

    1. Author

      Absolutely agree with every word, Ray. We are living proof that Brexiters and Remainers can agree fully outside that toxic subject! And thank you Alan … I agree with you too.

  4. Jon,

    …..’I like quiet and intelligent conversation as opposed to vomit laden accents from the council estates of the world…..’

    ….Bit over the top, don’t you think, on reflection…?

    Not too quiet , or bestowed with intelligence many may

  5. Oh my! How vilified you shall become by the uneducated, unintelligent, unhygienic masses who’s holidays you hope to curtail!
    However, I must admit, the loss of the drunken, unthinking mass of ignorants from ALL countries can only be a good thing.
    Apart from sending air travel back into the Stone Age from whence came proper service and comfort, the net effect will certainly be a quietening of the raucous night-time, non-stop boozing and all-night screaming competitions. I suspect the eventual numbers might well be similar in terms of income, both from long or short term stayers but the numbers of street cafes, restaurants and clubs will certainly dwindle, leading to a reduction in employment. Not a particularly desirable thing from a local standpoint.
    I have a suspicion that since it is likely that the aforesaid masses will the first to return and, good intentions notwithstanding, the earliest income could well form a pathway to the death knell of the “Plan”.
    I for one, will be happy to be wrong. I like quiet and intelligent conversation as opposed to vomit laden accents from the council estates of the world.
    Long Live The Revolution!

  6. So limit travel to the privileged minority is your solution to COVID, climate change etc?
    My final comment – in the words of Captain Tom, “tomorrow will be a good day”.

    1. Author

      It doesn’t need to be a “minority”, just not the overwhelming majority. And it’s not just my solution, but that of the Government in the Canaries, and elsewhere. And, indeed, the planet’s. It’s no use seeing such views as a snobbish attack on low class people, which is what I interpret from your use of the word “privileged”. The Canarian Government itself uses such language, unfortunately, calling the tourists it wants “quality tourists” but in reality privilege or class has nothing directly to do with it at all. It is a matter of practicalities and logistics. Where privilege is relevant is the privilege we have of living on this planet, which conveys a responsibility not to trash it, a responsibility that mass travel has not acknowledged or taken.

  7. Janet. I’m not sure what you mean by ‘limit tourism’? How exactly would you do that? There is nothing wrong with people wanting affordable holidays in sunny locations. Clearly this is not possible at the moment but hopefully, sometime soon, we will be able to return to everyone being free to enjoy their holidays wherever they want. Your comment about ‘deaths’ is far too simplistic and does not represent my views .

    1. Author

      What I mean by limiting tourism is what the authorities here are already discussing … fewer tourists. It really is that simple. Fewer tourists, less strain on infrastructure, but tourists who spend more. This is a feature of niche tourism they have already identified, whether golfers, the spa type hotel break, or astronomy, gastronomy, walking, green tourism … it’s all been much mocked by those opposed to the “going upmarket” model but that is what is increasingly being adopted because they have found explicitly that these fewer numbers have a greater spend than the masses coming on cheap breaks. It will have to become the norm. The “everyone being free to do what they want” model is outdated and cannot continue because too many people doing what they want without any thought of responsibility is what got us into the mess we’re in … and that’s true whether we’re talking about covid or the environment or any number of other issues.

  8. It seems unlikely that COVID will ever be totally eliminated any time soon. So you either have to continue with a global travel ban indefinitely or take a ‘pragmatic’ view that case numbers are sufficiently low to allow travel again (with appropriate safeguards). Tenerife cannot survive without tourists so at some the latter approach will inevitably prevail.

    1. Author

      No-one is remotely suggesting survival “without tourists” nor a travel ban, and that reaction is precisely the problem. While people look at it that way there is no way forwards, and I for one totally reject the idea of “balancing” people’s lives against other people’s jollies. That’s not “pragmatism”, it’s a cull, of human beings so that some people can go on holiday. Some people, one might think, need to readjust their priorities.

      It is interesting though, that you, like so many, go from “we need to limit tourism” to “you can’t ban it entirely”. Why is that? No-one was suggesting it! Clearly, however, mass tourism must change. They wanted to change the model here, and the main direction of thought was to welcome fewer tourists – far fewer – who wanted a different type of holiday from the traditional 1970s model still operating here and who would thereby put less of a strain on public infrastructure which has already been overloaded, hence sewage spills around the entire coastline.

      Now there is the opportunity, to the benefit of all … all, apart from those who just want to travel in their millions somewhere cheap and sunny. That is what has to change.

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