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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 »

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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)]

I am glad to read that the former health secretary Jeremy Hunt is asking our government to follow the WHO recommendations on COVID19. Not just mass testing, also quarantine and contact tracing, all on an unprecedented scale. His op ed is here:

We can do this. The cobas 8800 by Roche Diagnostics can test 2,500 samples a day.

400 of those machines would test a million samples a day.

The UK’s policy is based on a model such as is used in pandemic simulations. The (simulated) influenza in this model is an upper respiratory tract infection, and is airborne which means you can get it just by breathing the air of someone who is near you. Their simulated disease also has a large population of people who don't show any symptoms and have half the infectivity of those who do have symptoms. These assumptions are not based on real world data for COVID-19 but rather on data for influenza. Influenza and COVID19 are unrelated diseases. Both are respiratory tract infections,but influenza is not a coronavirus.ns is that we are using a simulated flu to guide policy rather than data from the real disease.

Good news - one small Italian town, Vo Euganeo, has completely stopped its outbreak by rigorously testing everyone in the community including those who were asymptomatic. To do that they disregarded a directive from their government to only test those who had symptoms.

Even China didn’t do that, or Singapore. They only tested those with fever or respiratory disease symptoms.

Vo Euganeo is in Veneto which has had consistently lower case numbers than the other provinces and has had the most rigorous approach to case finding.