It may be a painful fact to contemplate during these locked-down days, but last year the world was more mobile than ever, with people taking 4.6bn flights. In April this year, though, planes carried just 47m passengers; that level of mobility, annualised, would set the clocks back to 1978. The virtual halt to travel has exacerbated the global economy’s woes, complicating trade ties, upending business and devastating the tourism industry. Little wonder that governments want to restore lixs. An idea gaining favour is the creation of travel “bubbles”, binding together countries that have fared well against the coronavirus.

在疫情封城期间,这是一个想来令人痛心的事实。去年,全世界的出行人数多于往年,乘飞机出行的旅客数量达46亿人。但今年4月,搭乘飞机的旅客数量仅有4700万人;按年度计算倒退回了1978年水平。旅行已进入事实上的停顿状态,这使全球经济困境加剧,贸易关系变复杂,商业发生翻天覆地的变化,旅游产业受到冲击。难怪各国政府打算恢复联系,目前受到青睐的想法是建立旅游“气泡”,将那些抗击疫情成功的国家紧密联系在一起。


Simply returning borders to pre-virus days is, for now, inconceivable. Many health experts, first critical of travel restrictions, have come to view strict controls as useful, especially for places that have contained local infections. “Every inbound case is a potential seed that can grow into an outbreak,” says Ben Cowling, an epidemiologist at Hong Kong University.

就目前而言,仅仅把边境恢复到疫情之前的状态是难以想象的。许多卫生专家当初对旅行限制持批评态度,现在开始认识到严格管控的重要性,尤其是已遏制住疫情蔓延的地方。香港大学流行病学家本·考林表示:“每一个境外输入病例都是可能使疫情爆发的潜在种子”。

The first bubble is due to come to life on May 15th between Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, among Europe’s best performers in taming the virus. Their citizens will be free to travel inside the zone without quarantine. The next might be a trans-Tasman bubble, tying New Zealand to Australia’s state of Tasmania, both of which have kept new cases down. China and South Korea have launched a “fast track” entry channel for business people. “My expectation is that there will be a large number of small travel bubbles,” Mr Cowling says.

第一个气泡已于5月15日在爱沙尼亚、拉脱维亚、立陶宛之间形成,它们是欧洲控制疫情表现最好的国家,公民无需隔离就可以在该区域内自由旅行。下一个可能是跨塔斯曼海峡气泡,将新西兰与澳大利亚的塔斯马尼亚州联系在一起,两地的新增病例均保持在较低水平。中韩两国已为商人建立“快捷通道”入境机制。考林先生表示:“我期待出现大量的旅行小气泡”。

But in the same way that regional trade deals are more efficient than bilateral pacts, the economic benefits from making the bubbles bigger would be greater. Based on an analysis of infection data, The Economist sees two large zones that could emerge as bubbles, subsuming the smaller ones that are now being formed.

但同样是建立气泡,地区贸易协议比双边协定更为高效,气泡越大,经济效益越高。基于一份疫情数据分析报告,本刊预见到两大区域可能形成气泡,它们包含正在形成的小气泡。

The first is in the Asia-Pacific region, where countries from Japan to New Zealand have recorded fewer than ten new infections per 1m residents over the past week. The second is in Europe: using a laxer threshold—fewer than 100 new cases on the same basis—the bubble could reach from the Baltic to the Adriatic, and take in Germany (see map). Our Asia-Pacific bubble would, thanks to China and Japan, account for 27% of global gdp. Our European one would make up 8%.

第一个气泡是亚太地区,在过去的一周里,从日本到新西兰,每100万居民的新增病例少于10例。第二个气泡是欧洲:我们将门槛放宽些,每100万居民的新增病例少于100例,气泡范围从波罗的海到亚得里亚海,包括德国。多亏了中国和日本,亚太气泡占全球GDP的27%。欧洲气泡占全球GDP的8%。

One measure of the potential value of the bubbles is their degree of trade integration, showing whether the economies are complementary. For the countries in our Asia-Pacific bubble, an average of 51% of their overall trade is with each other. In our Baltic-to-Adriatic bubble, it is 41%. Small countries would gain the most by reconnecting with larger neighbours.

衡量气泡潜在价值的一个标准是贸易一体化程度,反映出各国经济是否具有互补性。在亚太气泡中,国与国之间的贸易平均占贸易总额的51%。在波罗的海-亚得里亚海气泡中,国与国之间的贸易占41%。与周边大国重新联系在一起的小国受益最大。

Free movement would be especially helpful for countries such as Thailand and Greece that rely on tourism. Factory Asia and Factory Europe also rely on workers shuttling back and forth. Before the pandemic, on a normal day up to 3.5m people would cross an internal border in the European unx, and 700,000 would go between Hong Kong and mainland China.

自由出行对于泰国、希腊等依赖旅游产业的国家帮助极大,亚洲工厂和欧洲工厂也要依靠上下班的工人。在疫情爆发前,平常每天有350万人跨越欧盟各成员国的边境,70万人跨越香港和中国内地的边境。


In any case, the public-health requirements for creating the travel bubbles will be vexing. In trade terms, they resemble an extreme version of non-tariff negotiations: countries will need to harmonise their approaches to managing the pandemic. That is a tall order when America and Europe cannot even agree on whether it is safe to wash chickens with chlorine.

在任何情况下,建立旅行气泡都会面临令人头疼的公共卫生要求。从贸易角度讲,这就像极端形式的非关税谈判:各国需要协调各自应对疫情的措施。美国和欧洲就“氯洗鸡”是否安全产生分歧,这种要求实在苛刻。


The ideal is “clean” bubbles. For these to work, countries first have to control infections domestically, says Teo Yik Ying, dean of the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health at the National University of Singapore. Then they have to be open with their partners: sharing data about infection levels and testing, and disclosing how they trace and isolate those who might have the virus. “This will all be underpinned by trust between governments,” Mr Teo says.

最理想的是“干净”的气泡。新加坡国立大学苏瑞福公共卫生学院院长张艺英表示,要想让气泡发挥作用,各国必须先做好疫情防控工作。然后必须向伙伴国家开放:分享有关感染水平和检测结果的数据,披露如何追踪和隔离可能携带病毒的人。张先生表示:“这一切都将以政府互信为基础”。

The need for trust immediately puts the Asia-Pacific bubble into doubt, as underlined by the region’s latest spat: China suspended some beef imports from Australia after it called for an inquiry into the origins of covid-19. Poorer nations might also be excluded. Laos and Cambodia have reported few infections, but wealthier countries have little faith in them.

互信的需求立刻使亚太气泡受到质疑,突出表现为该地区最近爆发的口水战:在澳大利亚呼吁调查新冠肺炎的源头后,中国停止从澳大利亚进口一部分牛肉。较为贫穷的国家可能也被排除在气泡之外,老挝和缅甸报告的感染病例很少,较为富裕的国家却对它们没有信心。