Thread by @jburnmurdoch: NEW: we dug through the Imperial College report to distill the core findings from the analysis of how coronavirus might spread in the UK and…
NEW: we dug through the Imperial College report to distill the core findings from the analysis of how coronavirus might spread in the UK and US under different scenarios ft.com/content/16764a…
If no action was taken, covid-19 could take 510,000 lives in the UK and 2.2m in the US.
Peak fatalities would occur slightly earlier in the UK due its greater population density, and UK’s fatality rate would be higher due to its older population.
It’s unlikely a vaccine will be available for mass dissemination for around 18 months, leaving governments two extraordinary choices:
• Attempt to completely suppress the virus via strict lockdowns
• Mitigate the spread of the virus without completely locking things down
3A) There are trade-offs involved in both.
In the case of complete suppression, deaths are minimised *while the lockdown is in place*, but there is a risk that as controls are relaxed, a second outbreak could arise and we’d be back where we started (the light blue line here).
3B) Essentially, unless every single person in the country practices social distancing for weeks or months on end, the virus could still be lingering, and most people’s lack of exposure to it mean they would be susceptible to a second wave.
But the government’s initial plan — mitigation rather than suppression — comes with a starker downside: a much greater toll on the healthcare system and more deaths.
The best-case mitigation scenario still produces peak demand of 42,000 ICU beds in the UK. Capacity is ~5,000.
This would mean more than 200,000 deaths under even the most ambitious mitigation strategy.
So suppression has become the only option. The most ambitious suppression strategies bring ICU bed demand down to around the numbers of beds we do have.
This means the death toll could also come down from a “do nothing” level of 510,000 to between 9,000 and 40,000 under the best-case suppression scenario.
The relative impacts are the same in the US.
7) So, suppression it is. The UK and US are now in the process of introducing strict lockdowns, which will be expanded in scope and severity over coming days and weeks.
9) To reiterate, suppression works, but it only works when everyone adheres strictly to the lockdown, and it will still take weeks or months of these measures to succeed.
Look at China today. Some people think China is back to normal now. It absolutely is not. Traffic levels and industrial activity remain severely depressed, nobody is going to the cinema, people are still prevented from leaving their housing compounds in many areas.
Even once a country’s lockdown is “complete”, some restrictions must remain until the vaccine.
International travel: if one virus carrier arrives in a country that finished its lockdown, they could spark a new outbreak among people who were never infected first time around.
The reason I make this chart is to get across the inevitability of coronavirus:
All western countries are on the same trajectory.
We’re all going to have lockdowns, some of us are just a few days behind on the curve.
…and countries that have so far managed to contain the virus have done so using either lockdowns or strict & pre-emptive social distancing etc. Weeks or months on in these countries, these measures have not been lifted.
There’s no happy & free & convenient solution here, folks