I was sufficiently alarmed at the end of Feb to post a layman’s impression of COVID-19, thinking at the time that I may have been over-reacting. It’s transpired that concerns raised in the article are valid. Written on 29th Feb, the article looks at the disease in more detail at the risks and likely impact to citizens of the UK. Seven days ago the World Health Organisation changed the status/definition for this COVID-19 outbreak from ‘Global Emergency’ to ‘Global Pandemic’. My layman’s update on COVID-19 (today) is that the UK’s risk mitigation activities appear to have failed and we are accelerating into an un-contained transmission of COVID-19. Daily 4pm addresses by Boris Johnson and his advisors are steering the public through a damage limitation process. Predictions have risen to an infection rate of 80% across the population. Most predictions suggest that 15% will require hospital treatment, 5% intensive care with up to 2% mortality. Media reports from other affected countries, at a more advanced stage than the UK , are suggesting something worse is coming down the tracks. What had previously been considered a ‘reasonable worst case’ in the UK is now considered the ‘most likely scenario’. Please see my previous post about what this means for the NHS and for anyone who needs treatment (on this link).
It’s common knowledge that UK is now where Italy was three weeks ago (on the acceleration infection transmissions). Here is a link to an informative audio article published by the BBC a couple of days ago on this: BBC: We’re about three weeks behind Italy (podcast available until 23/02).
Two days ago Imperial Collage, London published an influential study which I must draw to your attention (on this link). The graphs below (taken from the study) show the effects of following different suppression methods, plotted against availability of ICU beds.
The UK government has acted quickly on this research and mandated that all UK schools will close this Friday (20/03/2020) for the rest of the academic year. If I am reading the graphs correctly, by employing these suppression methods we may help delay the biggest shockwave (in the UK) until later in the year. Hopefully, by then we will be closer to having a vaccine available? The close-up appears to illustrate that we must keep the social isolation practices going for several months.
If you’re interested in modelling and would like to know a bit more about how social isolation works in principle, the link below will take you to an excellent article in the Washington Post which includes a couple of visualisations that demonstrate the slightly more radical principle of forced quarantine. Click straight through the commercials etc / go for the free-view option, It’s worth it seeing the animation. Link to Washington Post Corona-Simulator
Most of the UK’s air fleet is now grounded as countries around the world are in lock-down and have shut their borders. UK’s citizens have been advised to work from home and not travel unless absolutely necessary and/or undertaking an essential role. Weirdly, NHS staff and teaching staff are still required to operate in the front-line, unprotected and un-tested. The NHS in particular remains woefully under resourced and under-equipped.
Our ability to test effectively remains a major problem in the UK. The government numbers that are published each day are based on a very small minority who have been tested, mainly through being admitted to hospital. We have friends, with symptoms, that have tried and failed to get a test (displaying Covid 19 symptoms) and have just been advised to self isolate. By not being tested until admitted to hospital, the implication is that the numbers are far higher than those given? I don’t see evidence of any organised testing methodology in place. We must surely prioritise routine testing of all front-line staff. We must also quickly establish sample and control groups to extrapolate with any degree of confidence.
It is the elderly members of our family who are at most risk from COVID-19. How can we make rational and good decisions about how to protect them without reliable data? Feels like it might be time to lobby MPs, at least for global testing availability.
Final item on this post is a view (taken earlier today, 19/03/20) of the COVID-19 Global Cases dashboard, built and maintained by John Hopkins University Centre for Science and Engineering. Click through for the latest updates / live position.
The situation in the UK is deteriorating rapidly. By 8:54pm today (19-03-2020) Sky News is reporting that the UK death toll has risen steeply to 144. Sky also reported that confirmed cases in the UK have risen by 643 in one day to 3,269 (so there is clearly a latency on the refresh-rate for the above dashboard).