COVID: Taking stock of COVID's impact, 3 years after Wuhan's lockdown

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3 years ago to the day, the city of Wuhan went into lockdown. For many of us in the west, Covid-19 at this point was a concerning headline at this point, but not something that impacted our day-to-day. That, of course, didn’t last long as the virus — and the restrictions that came with it — eventually swept the globe.Much of the credit for our escape from rolling lockdowns was down to the development of Covid-19 vaccines. By now the majority of high income and upper-middle income countries are done with their mass vaccine campaigns — and have been for some time. While a lack of supply was the main barrier to vaccinations in 2020 and 2021, these days it’s a lack of demand, even in many lower income countries where only a fraction have had even one vaccine dose.

New normals?

In terms of lasting societal impacts, two of the largest changes have come to the way we travel and work.

Demand for remote jobs remains at an elevated level, particularly for office-workers. Using New York as an example of a majority office-based working population, and subway ridership data as a reasonable proxy for return-to-office demand, it's easy to see how different our working habits are now. The latest figures show daily subway usage in Jan 2023 is still roughly 30% below what it was when compared to pre-pandemic days, a significant recovery on 2020, but still nowhere near "back to normal".

The aviation industry, however, has made a stronger recovery, with vacations and visits to loved ones seemingly having a stronger pull than going back to the office. Passenger volumes through the TSA show figures close to 2019 averages, and Labor Day weekend in 2022 saw the TSA screen 8.76 million people, surpassing the same weekend in 2019.

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