LONDON (Reuters) -- Like earlier pandemics, the coronavirus is the dark side of a highly productive, urbanized, interconnected and increasingly prosperous world.
Yet urbanization has persisted, in spite of all the problems it creates, including pollution, disease and high living costs.
Now some commentators have begun to wonder if coronavirus and lockdowns employed to suppress it will mean profound changes in transportation and living patterns.
Will the popularity of megacities diminish? Will public transport systems be redesigned? Will supply chains move closer to home? And will international leisure travel shrink?
The answer is mostly no. Cities and transport systems are shaped by social and economic influences that will mostly force a return to the pre-pandemic status quo.
"Crises usually accelerate real trends in society and technology, they don’t create or refute them. Don’t expect revolutionary changes. Work from home is here faster. Globalism isn’t going anywhere,” chess champion Gary Kasparov predicts.
As with plague, influenza and other communicable diseases, coronavirus is a social disease which has travelled furthest and fastest along the transport routes carrying people and freight.
"In medieval times, ship transport was by far the most efficient and rapid way of transporting goods and disseminating disease at a distance,” historian Ole Benedictow wrote.
In his 2004 study "The Black Death 1346-1353”, Benedictow points out that epidemics first invaded seaports, cities and commercial hubs along the coasts of the Mediterranean and the western coasts of Europe or situated on large navigable rivers.
They would spread to local towns, and then further into the countryside by horse and carriage or by pack horses, eventually blanketing entire regions.
Today’s large, densely populated cities with mass transit systems, international connections and population groups with the most intensive face-to-face interactions for work, leisure and travel have proved ideal for transmission.
In the early 21st century, the passenger airliner has replaced the ship, while mass transit and private cars have replaced the horse and carriage.
But the coronavirus is spreading through the transport system in just the same way, exploiting business meetings, conferences, family get-togethers, holidays and social functions.
Influenza and plague often spared isolated communities in parts of Africa during the 1918 influenza and Iceland during the Black Death. So sparsely populated, less connected areas with more reliance on private transport may escape the worst of the coronavirus.