Coronavirus : Update 2 from the Epicenter

Posted by in Coronavirus

Only 4 days have passed since the last mail, but the situation has unfolded rapidly :

– Monday morning, all sport facilities (ski resorts) were closed, and all public gatherings of 2 or more people were banned.

– Monday afternoon, the 11 red zones were extended to the whole country

– Wednesday, all shops, restaurants and bars were shut down

All 60 million people are now confined to their homes.  Any travel must be documented and police are performing regular spot checks.
Some companies have asked their employees to consider this a holiday, others (like Siemens) are set up for effective remote working.  The huge percentage of the population that are self-employed have no safety net, but are being remarkably stoic.
The only commercial enterprises still open are food shops and pharmacies, however the number of people allowed into each shop is limited, and so there are queues outside with 1m between each person :

Consumers queue to go shopping at a supermarket due to the quota entrances, in San Donato Milanese, near Milan, northern Italy, 08 March 2020. The Italian authorities have taken the drastic measure of shutting off the entire northern Italian region of Lombardy – home to about 16 million people – in a bid to halt the ongoing coronavirus epidemic in the Mediterranean country. The number of confirmed cases of the COVID-19 disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in Italy has jumped up to at least 5,883, while the death toll has surpassed 230, making Italy the nation with the third-highest number of infections (behind China and South Korea) and the second-highest death toll after China. ANSA/ ANDREA CANALI

New cases in the original 11 red zones have fallen to zero – indicating that isolation works, however the incubation period means that the measures haven’t yet impacted the curve in the rest of the country…

…and the number of severe cases requiring intensive care is still rising, and so are deaths as a consequence :

This is an excellent interview on Channel 4 with the Italian professor coordinating the sanitary response :
Yesterday the WHO (finally) declared this to be a global pandemic and urged countries still in denial to take more decisive action.  The graph below shows that the UK and US are about 3 weeks behind Italy :

Although their respective curves appear to be stunted, they are already indicative of an exponential epidemic.  This can be seen better if you look at the pure numbers :
Italy : Confirmed cases have doubled in the last 4 days

From 5,883 cases on 8 March to 12,462 cases on 12 March
US : Confirmed cases have doubled in the last 2 days

From 472 cases on 10 March to 987 cases on 12 March
UK : Confirmed cases have doubled in the last 4 days

From 210 cases on 8 March to 460 cases on 12 March Indeed, yesterday the UK PM’s press conference was delivered with a more somber tone – perhaps because the Chief Scientific Advisor has estimated that the 500-or-so identified cases probably equates to 10,000-or-more total in-country infections.
I included S. Korea on the graph because despite their significant outbreak, they used rigorous and ubiquitous testing to get a clear picture of the situation :

These are absolute numbers and not per million of population.  Those numbers are more startling (although the US numbers do not include tests performed in local or private labs):

They UK has moved from step one (containment) to step 2 (delay), albeit with what is a very lightweight version of what other countries are doing.
Measures he imposed are :
1. If you have symptoms (persistent new cough and high fever), then you should stay at home2. Over 70s should cancel their cruises3. Avoid overseas school trips4. Don’t lick strangers
The PM remains insistent that more stringent measures are likely to come over the next weeks as the numbers ramp up.  “Appropriate action at the appropriate time” may be the best way to strike a balance between sanitary and economic impact, but if I was in the UK I’d perhaps start taking personal precautions in lieu of a stronger governmental response.
 It’s probably better that I don’t comment on the US President’s address :

Suffice to say that the virus isn’t a terrorist organization, and so comments like “the virus will not have a chance against us… no nation is more prepared or resilient… we have the best economy… acting with love and compassion we will emerge from this stronger…” do not cut it.