Friday, 27 March 2020

'This study shows that the drastic control measures implemented in China substantially mitigated the spread of COVID-19’ | Science, 25 March 2020

If we’re wondering: do drastic control measures halt the spread of the virus, the answer is... YES, they do.
That’s according to a study published in ScienceThe effect of human mobility and control measures on the Covid-19 epidemic by dozens of doctors and scientists from Harvard, Oxford, Sorbonne, China. etc.
(Though travel restrictions appear to have limited effect...)
Then there’s the issue of the cost of those measures.  About which Science says:
Models are at their most useful when they identify something that is not obvious, Kucharski says. One valuable function, he says, was to flag that temperature screening at airports will miss most coronavirus-infected people.
There’s also a lot that models don’t capture. They cannot anticipate, say, the development of a faster, easier test to identify and isolate infected people or an effective antiviral that reduces the need for hospital beds. “That’s the nature of modeling: We put in what we know,” says Ira Longini, a modeler at the University of Florida. Nor do most models factor in the anguish of social distancing, or whether the public obeys orders to stay home.
Recent data from Hong Kong and Singapore suggest extreme social distancing is hard to keep up, says Gabriel Leung, a modeler at the University of Hong Kong. Both cities are seeing an uptick in cases that he thinks stem at least in part from “response fatigue.”  “We were the poster children because we started early. And we went quite heavy,” Leung says. Now, “It's 2 months already, and people are really getting very tired.” He thinks both cities may be on the brink of a “major sustained local outbreak”. 
Long lockdowns to slow a disease can also have catastrophic economic impacts that may themselves affect public health. “It’s a three-way tussle,” Leung says, “between protecting health, protecting the economy, and protecting people’s well-being and emotional health.”The economic fallout isn’t something epidemic models address, Longini says—but that may have to change.
“We should probably hook up with some economic modelers and try to factor that in,” he says. [My emphasis. And... link to the study]
Doctors have to care about health and death rates. Politicians have to care about those too, but also about the overall health of society, which includes the health of the economy. That’s not being cruel or uncaring. It’s simply recognising that there’s more than one factor at work here. It’s not “uni-factorial”. If the economy cratered, there would be deaths and disabilities due to that fact that people have no work and have no money. There would be more suicides; more mental health problems. The art of politics is to balance those competing demands and it’s difficult. But it can’t be ignored or gainsaid because people say that’s being "cruel and uncaring" ...

Science Magazine has free access to articles, research, commentary and news on Covid-19 at its site here