April 21, 2020

Exit Startegy

Of course, I am talking about COVID-19. With the number of infections in the world crossing 2.5 million and race being on for developing a vaccine, I wonder if we are focusing on the right thing. I mean, it will take about 12-18 months to develop a vaccine. The virus has infected 2.5 million people in the last 4 months (it started spreading outside China in Jan). With the rate of contagion being highish, how many will it infect in the next 12-18 months? As per my calculation, we will infect the entire population of the world in about 7 months since the start in January at the current rate of spread. We are already in month 4.

Even at a slower rate of infection, the entire world will be infected in 288 days. So, again, what's the point of a vaccine?

Well, we don't yet know how bad the re-infection would be. By re-infection, I mean people who have already gotten better from COVID-19 infection may get re-infected. How bad this re-infection would be? Will it be better or worse than the first infection? Only time will tell. There is also a possibility of the virus mutating itself with time. I don't know if the vaccine will be effective in that case. Would we need to reinvent another one?

 Also, I can't imagine it will be possible for us to be in lockdown for the next 12-18 months. Economic costs need to be balanced. There will be lives and livelihoods lost that will start to mount up soon. So lives lost due to Coronavirus need to be balanced out with lives and livelihood lost due to lockdown. 

The point of the lockdown, in the first place, was to flatten the curve so that our medical sector can cope with the number of additional people getting sick. The keyword being "additional". Without turning down existing patients or other patients. Minimize the collateral damage as well as damage due to COIVID-19. We have been building new facilities all over the world. Is it enough? Do we have enough supplies? And most importantly, do we have enough medical staff to deal with this? Are we prepared? 

The next question is have we flattened the curve? Is it enough?   If not, then do we know when we would have done so? 

Again, this needs to be balanced with Economic costs, social unrest, and collateral damages. We don't want to keep focusing on one problem only. We have multiple problems. We need to find the best solution that help with these multiple problems. 

PS: 1. These are back of envelope calculations although I don't think they are too far from actual rates. 
2. For India:

With the actual rate (ignoring initial days), we will reach 1.3 billion in 161 days from January 22, 2020. The date would be 1st July 2020.
This is 33% less rate than actual. We reach 1.3 billion in 222 days from 22 January 2020. That will be 31st August 2020.

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