Everyone knows that we're facing a real crisis from the coronavirus. But do you know how we got here and what we need to do next? Ron Klain, former White House Ebola Response Coordinator, breaks it down for us: pic.twitter.com/XRkIw2EzM4
— Joe Biden (Text Join to 30330) (@JoeBiden) March 21, 2020
Gideon Lichfield, at the MIT Technology Review, “We’re not going back to normal” includes a good explanation of the infamous Imperial College ‘Eighteen Months’ prediction:
… It’s now widely agreed (even by Britain, finally) that every country needs to “flatten the curve”: impose social distancing to slow the spread of the virus so that the number of people sick at once doesn’t cause the health-care system to collapse, as it is threatening to do in Italy right now. That means the pandemic needs to last, at a low level, until either enough people have had Covid-19 to leave most immune (assuming immunity lasts for years, which we don’t know) or there’s a vaccine.
How long would that take, and how draconian do social restrictions need to be? Yesterday President Donald Trump, announcing new guidelines such as a 10-person limit on gatherings, said that “with several weeks of focused action, we can turn the corner and turn it quickly.” In China, six weeks of lockdown are beginning to ease now that new cases have fallen to a trickle.
But it won’t end there. As long as someone in the world has the virus, breakouts can and will keep recurring without stringent controls to contain them. In a report yesterday (pdf), researchers at Imperial College London proposed a way of doing this: impose more extreme social distancing measures every time admissions to intensive care units (ICUs) start to spike, and relax them each time admissions fall…
What counts as “social distancing”? The researchers define it as “All households reduce contact outside household, school or workplace by 75%.” That doesn’t mean you get to go out with your friends once a week instead of four times. It means everyone does everything they can to minimize social contact, and overall, the number of contacts falls by 75%.
Under this model, the researchers conclude, social distancing and school closures would need to be in force some two-thirds of the time—roughly two months on and one month off—until a vaccine is available, which will take at least 18 months (if it works at all). They note that the results are “qualitatively similar for the US.”
Eighteen months!? Surely there must be other solutions. Why not just build more ICUs and treat more people at once, for example?
Well, in the researchers’ model, that didn’t solve the problem. Without social distancing of the whole population, they found, even the best mitigation strategy—which means isolation or quarantine of the sick, the old, and those who have been exposed, plus school closures—would still lead to a surge of critically ill people eight times bigger than the US or UK system can cope with… Even if you set factories to churn out beds and ventilators and all the other facilities and supplies, you’d still need far more nurses and doctors to take care of everyone…
And what if we decided to be brutal: set the threshold number of ICU admissions for triggering social distancing much higher, accepting that many more patients would die? Turns out it makes little difference. Even in the least restrictive of the Imperial College scenarios, we’re shut in more than half the time…
(Excellent graphs & full explanations at the link.)
For sewist volunteers: From the SmartAir Filters website, an in-depth dissection of “What Are The Best Materials for Making DIY Masks?”
(Short answer: Vacuum cleaner bags!)
From the Brisbane Times, “‘It’s a powder keg’: South-east Asian countries grapple with virus”:
South-east Asia’s response to the coronavirus had varied wildly, from world’s best practice in Singapore to possible disaster in Indonesia.
As of Thursday night, Indonesia (309 infections), Malaysia (900 infections) and Thailand (272 infections) had all recorded their largest single-day rises in case numbers. Vietnam (76 infections), Cambodia (37 infections) and the Philippines (217 infections) were recording steady daily rises in infections, while Laos and Myanmar still claimed to have zero cases…
The lessons for other countries to learn from Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea are that “testing early and extensively, and effective isolation, contact tracing and quarantining has been key to bringing epidemics under control”.
“Any country that hasn’t been able to implement these measures quickly, for whatever reason, is at high risk of uncontrolled community transmission, as we’re seeing now in a number of European countries and the US,” Tam says.