The Corona Virus Epidemic – Going Global

Containment Fail

We want to share a few observations about the growing COVID-19 epidemic, based on what we have seen so far. It has been obvious for a while now that the attempt to contain the spread of the virus has essentially failed. Ever since case numbers started to soar in South Korea, Italy and Iran, it was clear that hopes that the outbreak would remain confined to China were misplaced.

Double-plus-ungood micro-organism COVID-19 looking for cells to infect

While it appears that the draconian measures taken by China’s government have managed to slow the spread of the infection in the country substantially (the caveat is that it is hard to say how reliable the data released by China are), the outbreak is accelerating everywhere else. It does not appear to be containable, we, therefore, expect governments will begin to adopt mitigation strategies.

At the time of writing the chart depicting total cases outside of China looked like this:

(Click on image to enlarge)

Total cases outside of China; at first the growth rate seemed manageable, but not anymore. A comprehensive up-to-date collection of COVID-19-related charts and data.

Known and Unknown Problems

This is the situation as we see it:

1. it is now an out-of-control pandemic, regardless of what the WHO wants to call it since it is spreading quite quickly all over the world.

2. one cannot take comfort from the fact that some countries are still reporting very low case numbers, as this is often merely the result of a lack of testing. Particularly in the US testing has so far not been undertaken on the scale this situation demands (as reported by Mish here, actions taken by the CDC and FDA seem to have led to a delay in the availability of testing kits).

3. the biggest known problems with the virus are:

A) it is highly transmissible and people can transmit the infection even while they are still

B) the incubation period generally ranges from 2 to 14 days, but in outlier cases, it can last up to 27 days. This fosters the spread of the infection and suggests lengthy quarantines will be necessary for people suspected of being infected.

C) existing tests are not very reliable – false negatives appear to happen quite frequently and quite a few patients who initially tested negative were found to test positive in a second test.

D) worst of all: around 18-20% of the cases are serious enough to require hospitalization and presumably some form of breathing assistance (blood oxygen saturation levels of these severe cases are reportedly in the 60s; unless oxygen is administered this is fatal). Most if not all health care systems in the countries concerned will be overwhelmed.

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