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Robert WalkerRSS Feed of this column.

I'm Robert Walker, inventor & programmer. I have had a long term special interest in astronomy, and space science since the 1970s, and most of these blog posts currently are about Mars and space... Read More »


Many governments, the UK included, focus their policy on physical distancing - which is the most obvious eye catching thing that filled the news about Wuhan. Contact tracing often gets far less attention - yet it is the absolute key to stopping this virus. It is also relatively easy to do. It doesn't need health workers. Other countries are using civil servants, community organizations and volunteers.

Contact tracing is the key to winning. Physical distancing is buying time, like defensive tactics in a game of football. Having bought time in this way we can go into the attack, crush this virus and eliminate it from our country.

In the UK those who think they have COVID-19, including confirmed cases, isolate at home for 7 days after onset of symptoms. Matt Hancock, the health secretary, was confirmed to have COVID-19 a week ago. He has just come out of isolation after 7 days. See: Matt Hancock leaves week-long isolation period under UK's 'outlier' rules

This is radically different from the WHO isolation period. According to the WHO he is still infectious and could contribute to the spread of the disease. He should only leave isolation this early if he has two negative PCR tests 24 hours apart.

Experts are weighing in on Matt Hancock’s proposal of “immunity passports ” in the UK. They say antibody tests will NOT prove you are immune to the disease. We don't know enough about this disease yet to say. From our experience with other diseases, it is possible that those with antibodies can be infected a second time (with the same strain of virus), and die of the disease.

This is a conversation I had recently via text with someone who suffers from depression about the situation about COVID-19 in the UK. I hope my answers will help others with depression face this situation.

The main message is, don't give up - we can and will deal with this - pressurize our government to act and protect yourself and others by making sure you don't get it yourself.

On a personal level, this is how to protect yourself, and also the people around you who might get it from you - you can break those chains of transmission at least and prevent it spreading through you into your community.

The idea that COVID-19 can’t be stopped and has to go in waves is based on the idea that it transmits like flu.

But COVID-19 is not flu.

COVID-19 can be stopped; it can be contained. Any second wave can be stopped too.

You can totally crush COVID19. China, South Korea have shown how. Spain and Italy are doing it now too. The WHO say this with every press briefing but the media almost never report this. To do this you test, isolate and care for cases, trace contacts and quarantine the contacts.

If you stop 75% of the transmisions you change a transmission that goes

100 cases → 200 cases → 400 cases

to one that goes

100 cases → 50 cases → 25 cases

and it soon stops.

Many countries are showing that the strategy of China, Singapore and South Korea also works in Europe - to aggressively find cases, isolate them, trace contacts and isolate them. They now need to keep this up.

Italy is now down to a 4% increase per day - that’s a doubling time of 17 days. It’s down from a doubling time of just 5 days a fortnight ago. Italy looks to be well past its exponential rise, and even over the stage of a linear increase too. The cases per day are decreasing significantly.

Doubling time of 17 days = [log(2)/log(1+4/100)]

Doubling time of 5 days = [log(2)/log(1+13/100)]