Airline transportation and arrival time of international disease spread: A case study of Covid-19

Pei Fen Kuo, Chui Sheng Chiu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this era of globalization, airline transportation has greatly increased international trade and travel within the World Airport Network (WAN). Unfortunately, this convenience has expanded the scope of infectious disease spread from a local to a worldwide occurrence. Thus, scholars have proposed several methods to measure the distances between airports and define the relationship between the distances and arrival times of infectious diseases in various countries. However, such studies suffer from the following limitations. (1) Only traditional statistical methods or graphical representations were utilized to show that the effective distance performed better than the geographical distance technique. Researchers seldom use the survival model to quantify the actual differences among arrival times via various distance methods. (2) Although scholars have found that most diseases tend to spread via the random walk rather than the shortest path method, this hypothesis may no longer be true because the network has been severally altered due to recent COVID-related travel reductions. Therefore, we used 2017 IATA (International Air Transport Association) to establish an airline network via various chosen path strategies (random walk and shortest path). Then, we employed these two networks to quantify each model's predictive performance in order to estimate the importation probability function of COVID-19 into various countries. The effective distance model was found to more accurately predict arrival dates of COVID-19 than the geographical distance model. However, if pre-Covid airline data is included, the path of disease spread might not follow the random walk theory due to recent flight suspensions and travel restrictions during the epidemic. Lastly, when testing effective distance, the inverse distance survival model and the Cox model yielded very similar importation risk estimates. The results can help authorities design more effective international epidemic prevention and control strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0256398
JournalPloS one
Issue number8 August
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Aug

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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