While we may have reservations about Chinese data, there is no doubting they have done a sterling job in trying to contain the COVID-19 outbreak (as the new coronavirus symptoms are now known). However, it is not enough and we have now reached a point where it is impossible to contain. This piece looks at why.
Diseases such as SARS and Ebola have high spreadability and high mortality, but thankfully we managed to keep them both under control through aggressive containment policies.
China effectively shutting down its cities and adopting aggressive containment processes at a level never seen before has helped slow down the spread of COVID-19, but unfortunately it may now be too late as additional clusters appear around the world.
The infectivity rate, R0, is how many people one infected individual infects on average, for a given population. Factors such as herd immunity, climate etc can affect this, but so far we see around 2.5 people per infected person which means it spreads aggressively. We are perhaps also seeing evidence of superspreaders like SARS. For reasons we do not fully understand, most SARS carriers did not get other people sick. Some infected 50 or more.
Aside from concerns over severe cases flooding ICUs, with a higher apparent severity case than most, the main factor that is concerning about COVID-19 has been the long incubation period and asymptomatic transmission through proximity alone, something we haven’t really seen before.