Getting the timing right is key. That was the message of the most informative press conference so far on the global pandemic.
London is estimated to be about four weeks behind Italy as it goes through what is usually the coldest month, with the peak expected in about 10 to 14 days.
95% of infections are 13 weeks either way of the peak. Some 50% are 3 weeks either way of the peak. The aim now is to delay the rate of infections so as to not put too much stress on the health service at the same time.
The British scientists appear resigned to the idea that in the reasonable worse case scenario 80% will get infected, a bit more than Merkel’s estimate of 70%.
This is in effect a pandemic which at this stage can no longer be contained. It is spreading exponentially, and it will continue to spread, both in the United Kingdom and across the world.
Britain therefore will no longer do general population testing. Instead testing resources will be reserved for individuals who are in hospital showing symptoms of coronavirus.
It is estimated some 5,000 to 10,000 are infected in UK, with 20 individuals currently in intensive care.
The measures taken currently therefore are primarily to flatten the peak so as to spread out demand for medical care.
That measure being for now just one. Anyone who has high temperature or a new continuous cough should stay at home for seven days.
This is again to spread out the rate of infection so that hospitals can manage, with seven days chosen in this case because that’s usually when they are most infective. As in presumably, and they didn’t say this, but as in cough more or otherwise are more infective.
There are asymptomatic carriers, with the rate of them unknown because there is no way to test it. Depending on how many asymptomatic carriers there are, the outlook can be significantly different.
The British scientists said the spread occurs through body fluids ‘traveling’ by say touching your noise or mouth and then something else or of course through coughing as the body tries to get rid of the virus.
Because it is through such fluids, at this stage cancelling sporting events or the like might even be counterproductive according to Brits because any one person infects 2 to 3 others and those others are far more likely to be family members.
Thus unnecessarily keeping them at home might be more infective during the asymptomatic stage when they might have contact with family members but not random strangers.
That’s for the general public which basically needs to get immunity to this new virus. For the elderly it is especially dangerous, although even there the vast majority who get it only have mild symptoms.
However, this is more serious than the flu because of this need to get immunity as it occurs in two stages. For 99% of the overall population, young or old, they get some mild symptoms and thats it. For 1% they get a second stage, an immune response which then complicates matters.
That 1% is for the overall population where it is significantly more likely this second stage occurs in old people.
Thus for the elderly the aim is not to delay its spread, but for them to not get it at all preferably.
The rest, the implicit suggestion was basically need to be immunized because if drastic measures are taken now where say no one gets out of the house, then a few months later it pops up again because this has spread already.
Banning flights and the like thus is not a desirable measure certainly at this stage, but even earlier as if 95% of the flights could be banned from China it would have delayed it only by a day or two, Brits say, with the date here presumably being in late January.
That’s because everyone can go through other routs so if everyone did it at the same time, then it might have been more effective.
Now that this is a pandemic, Britain is not making any distinction based on nationality, but only testing if with symptoms in hospital, while focusing on basically managing it to spread out the immunization process.
The point of delaying the peak is to buy time as they are learning more and more every week, to also buy time for preparation and measures, and also crucially to manage the healthcare resources so that everyone gets the full treatment needed especially as other more common illnesses start drifting off with spring and summer and thus free the beds and the time of doctors and nurses.
To manage it they are asking people to do certain things at the right time so that they are more likely to do them and so that picking the right timing leads to the most effective response.
Asking people to stay at home might sound easy, a government science advisor said, but you try it and see.
Initially there might be enthusiasm, but according to behavioral science people get fed up, so it is important to be only as demanding as necessary.
These people will need food and the like, maybe even medication, so if you know a neighbor that is self-isolating, which he or she is doing for the community really, “the biggest effect on this is not break outs of panic but break outs of altruism,” the advisor said.
We’ll get through this, was Boris’ concluding remarks, as we gotten through many other challenges, with this being a once in a generation event.
And so in just an hour they have perhaps lowered the temperature of the country as it becomes clear that this is just something we have to deal with and unfortunately for some of us we might lose loved ones prematurely but hopefully in very low numbers.
It’s not clear just what measures should be expected in a few days however here in London, with the advisor stating we should expect the same trajectory as in Italy but not necessarily the same measures.
Yet more measures are to be expected he said, with the most crucial and most demanding time being the peak which is coming to London now in a week or two.
It’s then when it’s important to slow the demand on healthcare considerably, but there was no hint of what measures they might propose.
The advantage for Brits is of course the benefit of experience from other countries, and about three months of it now.
So hopefully they’ll be able to buy sufficient time to arrive at more effective and less demanding measures as the world now faces a pandemic.
And as the world now understands seemingly far more clearly just what we should expect with that being the fact this will now have to run its course as containment has failed, so it is more about mitigation and spreading it out to minimize the effects.