Are governments overreacting?

New restrictions every day. Is it an overreaction?

The global sharing of information means that in the past month we have quickly generated a lot of data about the new coronavirus. By following how many cases were in each country, each day, we can create a predictive model of how fast it spreads.

Let’s imagine together if every one person infects two others within two days (COVID19 is thought to be slightly more infectious than that). On the first day, there is one case; on the third day, two new cases, for a total of 3.  On the fourth or fifth day, six new cases (each infects two people) for a total of 9.  On the sixth day, 18 new cases, total 27 by the end of the week.  Week 2: 72, then 171, then 414 (this is about where we are in Israel, just over). I’m not much of a math person, but if this pattern continued every two days even, then by the end of Week 3 (next week) we would see 1,000 cases. By the end of the Week 4:  33,968.  And Week 5: 477,966.

We have the real numbers from other countries to back these predictions up:  “On the 23rd of January, China’s Hubei province, which contains the city of Wuhan, had 444 confirmed COVID-19 cases. A week later, by the 30th of January, it had 4,903 cases. Another week later, by the 6th of February, it had 22,112.  The same story is now playing out in other countries around the world. Italy had 62 identified cases of COVID-19 on the 22nd of February. It had 888 cases by the 29th of February, and 4,636 by the 6th of March.”

The curve of this graph is only influenced by how many people are interacting (social separation).  The countries with slower doubling are those with strict quarantine measures for the whole population.

One more really critical thing to remember is what the healthcare capacity (open hospital beds, ventilators, etc) is, and how that interacts with these numbers. The UK put the two graphs side by side. On the left is modeled various scenarios, ranging from: Tall blue curve – business as usual, to Lowest light blue curve – Home quarantine and social distancing. Next to that, is how that compares to the famous graph of our healthcare’s ability to cope with increased patient load.  As you see, anything above essentially status quo, will not be able to access health care.  The graphs look quite similar for us in Israel.

Source: Here

Now lets look at Israel’s numbers specifically. Compiling the data since March 3 (first recorded positive case in Israel) to now, shows that we are on track for a 2-3 day doubling rate (see for country-specific info).

This puts us squarely in the outcomes of Italy, Iran, and Spain.  This is not an overstatement. It is the data-driven model of the trajectory we are on.

This is going to get a whole lot worse before it gets better, but how bad it gets depends on how tightly we socially regulate.  With these graphs we can see our future.  The data and trajectory are undeniable.  Which is why governments across the world are putting their countries in economic peril by closing down all non-essential functions.  If you are not a health care worker, or involved in supplying food, you should not be going to work.

To prevent the deaths of our friends and family, we need to shut everything down. Now.

About the Author
Dr Roth is a US-trained family physician with specialties in research and global health. She made aliyah five years ago to Ra'anana, and is mother to four young children. Dr Roth currently practices both in Israel and to the US via telemedicine, and directs the Clinical Reasoning Course at Sackler Medical School (Tel Aviv University).
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