Day 4 in the Corona house: The Scientist

From the relative quiet of the lounge at Gumnut Towers, I can’t help but reflect on the different approaches being taken to the Coronavirus. In simple terms, hold back the tide or manage the flooding. Today has been both enlightening and concerning as those two positions become more entrenched.

Day four in the Corona house

The first group of countries are essentially trying to prevent or control the spread of the virus among their population. China, at least Hubei province has tried this by putting its region into lockdown. Similar approaches were taken by Taiwan, Singapore and later by South Korea. However, those countries have more capability to enforce strict lockdowns which remain largely alien to the European mentality. It has to be said that where that approach has been taken hard and fast, the approach appears to be effective. China has plateaued in terms of reporting new cases in Hubei with similarly low growth in reporting and fatalities in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Perhaps the most obvious example of this approach being taken in Europe is Italy however, they imposed town. regional and more latterly national measures much later in the virus spread. The result of waiting longer caused emergency and intensive care facilities to be overwhelmed which in turn led to further tightening of restrictions and social distancing.

The suspension of flights into the United States for 30 days is another flavour of the same approach. However, the United Kingdom seems to be heading down a different track.

In his speech today, Boris Johnson stressed the move from contain to delay. By definition, this acknowledges that the idea of holding back the tide has already been conceded. Instead, we aim to flatten out the peak of viral infection to a level that our health system and specifically intensive care services could cope.

This is based on a number of assumptions, the two most important being that the peak of infections may not occur for three months. The second being that we have a month to react being that far behind Italy – we have some breathing space. The question today was, are those assumptions correct?

The worrying news is that is far from certain. The chart shows the rate of infection (as measured by new cases diagnosed) in Italy. This is shown by the grey dotted line. By comparing similar case figures for a variety of countries, including the UK it’s possible to see where they sit on the same curve. When you carry out that comparison the time difference slips from 4 weeks to under half that at just thirteen days.

Given the growing consensus that Italy left things too late then the UK has perhaps a week left to prevent us being in the same position as Italy, unless the government has already concluded that’s inevitable. Perhaps the most chilling comment in the Prime Ministers speech was at the very beginning where promising to level with the UK public he said

Many more British families are going to lose their loved ones before their time

I can’t recall the last time I heard such a bleak commentary from the heart of government.

The problem at least as seen from Gumnut is that the UK approach doesn’t seem to have any teeth. If the approach is to flatten the peak to a manageable level, you might expect some preventative measures. These might include permitting or indeed instructing that people should work from home.

Similarly, reducing large gatherings that provide the means of spreading the virus further would surely slow the rate of spread even if you concede it’s going to grow massively in due course. However, we have yet to do any of these other than in Scotland who have banned large gatherings either indoors or out.

In contrast, Ireland, France, Canada and many others have closed some premises and put measures in place to restrict spread. It may yet prove to be the biggest lab experiment of the last 100 years. In both approaches, the end result (at least to date) is pretty similar. The number infected doubles every four days. This means by Monday if the UK has topped 1.000 confirmed cases, then it may be time for those further restrictions to come into place – if indeed that ship hasn’t already sailed.

The great unknown at this point is just how long we have to faff around before limiting social contact. The last bastion of doing nothing appears to be timing. It’s argued by the Chief Medical Officer and others than imposing things too soon will result in safety fatigue and people relax just when the virus peaks. However, given we haven’t had a pandemic in an urban age for 100+ years, it’s unclear to me on what evidence this is based?

The inclines (right) are starting at the top and working down Italy, South Korea, France, USA and UK. These tend to support the idea that we are about 6 days behind France and maybe 12/13 behind Italy. The other important point will be the time when Italy’s curve starts to flatten out. Given that we all look pretty well aligned on the same trajectory it may give us an indication of how long this is likely to last.

One last thought if the peak infection phase is 3 months away as predicted and assuming a 6 week tailing off, this means we are unlikely to see the remaining games in the six nations played before the autumn. Surely Wimbledon, The Euros similar sporting events must be doubtful.

So, today was a tad depressing. I’m usually of the keep calm and carry on persuasion. Although that’s still my preferred option, I do think we’re a panicked population but not necessarily an aware population. Let’s hope I’m wrong.

There was, however, a lighter moment this morning when despite the apparent non-use of Barry the bog roll I found the lavatory was blocked. I hasten to add I have no part in this event, I merely offer reportage. However, I suspect there is more going on with the dunny roll than meets the eye. Suspecting foul play I sought out Vaughan in the living room. “Good morning Mary Poppins” – Vaughan looks blank and slightly concerned. However, it was nothing as to the concern when I go all Dick van Dyke on him .. you may join in to the tune of Supercalifragilisticexpealidocious.

Image result for mary poppins

Have you done a megapoo the size of a small pony Though you may deny it, I suspect the claim is phony I think you did two in case the first one became lonely Have you done a megapoo the size of a small pony

Um diddle iddle iddle Um diddle eye Um diddle iddle iddle Um diddle eye Um diddle iddle iddle Um diddle eye Um diddle iddle iddle Um diddle eye

He travelled all around the world and everywhere he went They said don’t let him in there or the plumming will be bent Or let him use it carefully or it can change your life If your fella’s not a plumber you’ll be bunged up all your life .. Oh (all together now)

Have you done a megapoo the size of a small pony Though you may deny it, I suspect the claim is phony I think you did two in case the first one became lonely

Have you done a megapoo the size of a small pony

I’ll just leave that with you.

#Coronavirus #Coronavirusquarantine


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