Very recently, a study was published out of a research group based in Oxford University, UK. The study is basically in response to the 2 models the Imperial college of London announced earlier and which made the UK government change its approach this last Monday from heard immunity into a contingency plan.
The study (which you can download here) tries to shoehorn the model of “epidemiology spread” into the current data points.
There are two dangerous things one can derive out of this study.
(1) the sense that we are over it.
I understand the intellectual possibility to study the space of “possibilities” (and get some media attention, funding and whatnot). End of the day, we all want to write and do relevant things, and this is contextually relevant.
But potentially very dangerous as it can be very misleading. So much, so our Prime minister (in the UK) was discussing that on national TV just a few days ago. This can give a false sense of hope.
Why do I say so? Because the article omits (or neglects) the elephant in the room. Let me explain what I mean - for that we need some context.
The study states that a percentage of the English population could have already had the virus and been asymptomatic the whole time (since January). And that what we are seeing now is the long tail of the symptomatic people being affected. Deaths during the previous period (before being declared a pandemic) would not have been recorded as SARS-CoV-2 and people with symptoms would not have been deemed vectors* for that disease.
All good and well on paper until we look at some facts.
- Fact number 1: Italy (and now Spain (and now the US) have their health systems not only SATURATED but completely unable to cope with the spread of the disease.
Even though the disease doesn’t manifest symptomatically in symptomatic patients until 5-15 days after infection, we are still seeing a mix of the last 2 weeks up to 5 days back from today, worth of ill people.
The reality (from what’s being reported) is: lots of hospitals in Spain and Italy doctors have to decide who lives and who dies.
There has not been a significant percentage of the population in England has gone through the illness and not having collapsed the NHS… which brings the point home.
- Fact number 2. The NHS is getting closer and closer to be in the same position the health systems in all these other countries.
The explanation in the article basically states the problem is we’re seeing the virus now infecting the susceptible people. So the virus has purposely selected as hosts people who would be asymptomatic and is now spreading to people who would be symptomatic and maybe die.
(2) the sense that we can beat it without any effort. (And that we shouldn’t be worried)
And these two in combination are very dangerous. It makes you think as a society you can just ignore the extra pile of bodies in the corner and keep on with your life, your economy and that the whole show must go on.
The worse part of this is it downplays the incommensurable effort being made by a part of the society. People who either expose themselves to a non-zero chance of getting the virus and dying (distribution, health workers, last-mile, packaging lines, food production, etc.) or work on creating and developing tools, medicines, vaccines, PPE, etc. for those who are vulnerable and/or being exposed the most.
[*] Vectors: in the context of illness, a vector is a living thing which can be used for the virus as a host to infect other living things. The “correct” definition is more like so: an agent that carries and transmits an infectious pathogen into another living organism; a disease vector.