woods40_ DANIEL LEAL-OLIVASAFP via Getty Images_air travel DANIEL LEAL-OLIVASAFP via Getty Images

The Rich World’s Super-Spreader Shame

G20 countries have failed the rest of the world during the pandemic, not least by serving as viral super spreaders. To make up for it, they must follow through on global vaccination commitments and establish new international standards for pathogen surveillance and travel.

OXFORD – G20 leaders will meet in Rome at the end of October, in part to discuss how to deal with future pandemics. But the truth is that their countries’ actions have largely fueled the current one.

Many G20 countries have been COVID-19 super spreaders. Following the coronavirus’s transmission beyond China, which initially sought to quash reporting of the outbreak, the United States and other rich countries chalked up early failures that greatly contributed to the virus’s worldwide spread. Had they acted sooner, they could have at least slowed its transmission to poorer countries. Worse still, their failure to commit to vaccinating the whole world as quickly as possible has created a self-defeating cycle where more transmissible and harmful variants of the virus are likely to be unleashed.

Statistical models show that international air travel was the key factor in the global spread of COVID-19 until early March of last year. This is borne out by the charts below, which detail the spread of the Alpha variant (also known as the UK or Kent variant) and the frequency of air travel to different countries from London airports in October 2020. Prominent in the Alpha variant’s spread were Spain, Italy, and Germany.

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