These blogs were written and posted on the Facebook-Page "https://www.facebook.com/tk.corona.updates/" which I created during the early stages of the Covid19 pandemic in order to share some information and analysis on the Corona data (cases and deaths) worldwide and in a few selected countries (US, Italy, Germany, UK, Spain, Canada).
Coronavirus 5: Reopening April 22, 2020
Florence, April 22, 2020
Coronavirus 5: Reopening
What people should really understand about the potential second wave (that you hear so much about now) is that if it comes it will probably be much worse than the first one. The reason is the following: The first one started in one place and slowly spread from there. However, if we are not careful enough the second wave will start in many different places at the same time (everywhere where there are already infected people that start to mingle again with other people). This is exactly what happened with the Spanish flu in 1918 when its second wave at the end of World War I killed more people than had died during the Great War itself.
With Corona, as we know by now, the first wave brought the virus basically everywhere in the world. The containment measures put into place have brought the spread more or less under control (and that’s a big “more or less” actually). But in most places there are still quite a lot of new cases so the virus is certainly alive and active.
So to prevent the second wave after reopening, the reproduction factor R needs to be kept at bay. The difference between R<~1 (one person infects on average one other person or five persons infect five persons) and R~1.2 (five persons affect six persons which means four of them still infect one and just one of them infects two) does not sound like a lot but the effect on the population if this happens everywhere at the same time could be devastating. Instead of the virus slowly fading away, we could end up with a vast number of small epidemic waves and the superposition of all these small waves would be one huge wave that is everywhere at the same time.
That’s why it is so important to have two things in place before reopening:
- Large-scale testing and contact tracing are needed to dampen each individual new wave right at the start. Everyone who had been in contact with an infected person and is thus at risk of an infection needs to be put in quarantine as quickly as possible.
- All of us individually have to keep on doing everything we can to reduce further transmissions. Don’t be that fifth person who (unknowingly) infects two other people. The best way to prevent this from happening is to continue social distancing and to wear a mask whenever you are in public. So even if your country is reopening (hopefully slowly), please stay vigilant and at least initially use the new freedoms sparingly.
The first point can be controlled in some way. This is mostly up to your government (and there are surely some that you can trust in this and some that you can’t). But reading the comments on social media and seeing the “Open up the economy”-protests going on in so many places, I really have my doubt about the willingness of the people to adhere to the second point. And the worrying thing is that we really need everyone to contribute in order for this to work. Otherwise it will again be mostly the elderly, the sick and the poor as well as the health workers that will pay the prize for all of us…