Imperial College in London has recently analyzed the measures that the United Kingdom and United States are taking in order to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Through their research, they wanted to model the impact that these public health measures would actually have on the coronavirus in the long run.
The analysis has found that we are currently involved in the worst public health crisis in generations, so it’s important to understand the exact estimations in regard to the scale of this threat.
“We use the latest estimates of severity to show that policy strategies which aim to mitigate the epidemic might halve deaths and reduce peak healthcare demand by two-thirds, but this will not be enough to prevent health systems being overwhelmed. More intensive, and socially disruptive interventions will therefore be required to suppress transmission to low levels. It is likely such measures will need to be in place for many months, perhaps until a vaccine becomes available,” said Professor Neil Ferguson.
Without a proper vaccine or any concrete drug treatment for coronavirus, all researchers have to work off is the several public health measures that different countries have taken. They’re able to compare and contrast how certain measures are working and how others aren’t. The main conclusion so far is that social-distancing and self-quarantining is the best way to ensure that COVID-19 isn’t spreading as aggressively as it could be. The five specific measures that scientists and researchers have been analyzing go as follows:
- Home isolation of cases – whereby those with symptoms of the disease (cough and/or fever) remain at home for 7 days following the onset of symptoms
- Home quarantine – whereby all household members of those with symptoms of the disease remain at home for 14 days following the onset of symptoms
- Social distancing – a broad policy that aims to reduce overall contacts that people make
- Social distancing of those over 70 years – as for social distancing but just for those over 70 years of age who are at highest risk of severe disease
- Closure of schools and universities
The team concluded that combinations of all five of these measures would likely result in two different scenarios, depending on how intense each measure actually is. In the first scenario, the focus would be to slow the spreading of the virus by using these measures. So while they may not be able to stop it completely from spreading, they could interrupt the fast rate that it’s doing so in the meantime. This would mean that there would be less pressure put on healthcare systems worldwide, and greater protections for those most at risk.
In the second scenario, the focus is on suppressing the outbreak where it is currently. This would involve implementing the more intense interventions to stop the spread and reduce the number of cases worldwide to much lower levels. However, the risk with this focus would be that while it would give us a lower number of cases today, there’s no telling how much more it could spread in a month or so.
If the focus was on the first scenario, slowing the spreading itself, then the most optimal policy would be a combination of home isolation/quarantine, and social distancing for any individual above the age of 60. The report states that this could result in a reduction of demand on the healthcare industry, and would likely reduce the amount of deaths by 50%. However, with this scenario there’s still a projected 250,000 deaths, which is staggering.
On the other end, if the focus was on scenario 2 and suppressing the outbreak with where it is now, the research shows that a combination of social distancing of the entire population, home isolation/quarantine, and college/university closures will likely slow the progression overall, and leave room for those who need treatment.
Researchers concluded that they’re monitoring this situation constantly, and paying special attention to China and South Korea, where the virus first began spreading and also where the case numbers are beginning to decrease already. Only time will tell which scenario will play out for the rest of the planet.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at email@example.com.