Millions travelled for Thanksgiving despite warnings and rapid rise in Covid-19 

Millions travelled for Thanksgiving despite warnings and rapid rise in Covid-19 

Millions travelled for Thanksgiving despite warnings and rapid rise in Covid-19 

Despite clear warnings that mass travel could drastically worsen the Covid-19 pandemic, more than 4.9 million Americans were screened at US airports – travelling to celebrate Thanksgiving with their families. 

Public health guidelines said Americans should have a subdued Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends. They warned against travelling, saying mass travelling would likely worsen the pandemic in the US – the hardest-hit country in the world. 

But on Wednesday, more than a million people were screened at US airports – the fifth straight day with roughly that number of air travellers determined to enjoy one of the biggest annual celebrations in the US. 

The holiday was celebrated at a time of severe economic strain for millions of Americans. More than 20 million people are receiving some form of unemployment benefits, and a fresh wave of layoffs is expected as governors impose business restrictions in a bid to stop the spiralling infections, and with additional aid from Congress nowhere in sight. 

Many others did cancel travel plans and instead connected with family and friends over FaceTime or Zoom. 

Joe Biden offered a message of hope however in a Thanksgiving video address that rallied Americans to pull together to defeat the virus and its spreading. 

 

“I know better days are coming, I know how bright our future is. I know the 21st Century is going to be an American century,” he said.

Many are looking to the recent vaccine breakthroughs as the biggest hope for an end to the pandemic, but much of the world faces a gloomy winter – made further miserable by lockdowns, economic anxiety and devastating loss. 

Anthony Fauci said he was expecting a surge superimposed upon a surge” caused by the big holiday getaway.

And current President Trump, for his part, spent the day golfing at a course he owns in Virginia, taking time out to attack Biden’s record-setting winning vote count in the election earlier this month. 

A Covid-19 Thanksgiving 

Globally, more than 61 million infections and 1.4 million deaths have been recorded since Covid-19 emerged in China late last year, according to a tally compiled by AFP from official sources. 

 Despite the burst of travel in the US – still far below last year’s Thanksgiving numbers – pandemic restrictions meant that there was a resolute, stoical undercurrent to this year’s festivities. 

Joe Biden described how he normally travels to the New England coast for a big family feast, but would be staying home in Delaware this year. 

“I know this isn’t the way many of us hoped we’d spend our holiday. We know that a small act of staying home is a gift to our fellow Americans,” he said in his video message, posted to social media.

US political divisions

Trump plays some Thanksgiving golf
Trump plays some Thanksgiving golf

Trump’s White House urged “all Americans to gather, in homes and places of worship,” despite the health risk. 

Biden called on people to hunker down and keep observing health guidelines until a vaccine is available. 

“There is real hope, tangible hope. So hang on. Don’t let yourself surrender to the fatigue,” Biden said on Wednesday.

Hopes were slightly diminished when British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, one of three firms that have reported their vaccine to be ready, said further research was needed after questions emerged over the protection it offers. 

The Oxford University / AstraZeneca vaccine was initially reported to be 70 per cent effective, but then said it was 90 per cent effective when an initial half-dose then a full-dose was given. 

US scientists said the higher rate came during tests in people aged 55 and under. 

While low-income frontline workers often face the biggest risks from the virus, it has also run rampant through the world’s most powerful and wealthiest. 

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