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What the mathematical model says that changed the UK strategy against the covid-19 coronavirus

UK changed its strategy to combat the coronavirus pandemic: moved from mitigation to a more control scenario

The British government's strategy against


 was based on

"mitigation" and "herd immunization"

But suddenly everything changed: a mathematical model presented by the

Imperial College London

 It gave an extremely bleak picture of how the disease was going to spread throughout the country, how it was going to impact the public health system (NHS), and how many people were going to die.

And the message could not be clearer: either a change of strategy or more than a quarter of a million people will die from the coronavirus. Even if the system can attend to all infected patients.

In the US, that model determines that between a million and 1.2 million people can die from the coronavirus if immediate measures are not taken.

"We could be living in a very different world than we know for a year or more," Neil Ferguson, head of the mathematical modeling program at Imperial College London, told the Financial Times.

So the Prime Minister,
Boris Johnson


 , began to speak of "suppression", which is the strategy used in China and translates into breaking the chain of contagion with the social distance of the entire population, instead of "mitigation".

In Italy infections have reached 12,000 cases and more than 1,800 infected

In Italy infections have reached 12,000 cases and more than 1,800 infected

The WHO had already pointed out that if the option was to do nothing, deaths in the United Kingdom could reach 510,000. Taking this into account, the mitigation strategy was chosen, in order not to close the country.

But the government, as BBC health correspondent James Gallagher points out, "relies on science to make decisions and science changes all the time."

And science told the government now that if it continued with the mitigation model, not only would there be that many deaths, but the health system would collapse.

"The suppression strategy is the only viable one," warns the Imperial College report.

The model

If the mitigation strategy continues, 1.2 million people could die from the coronavirus in the US

If the mitigation strategy continues, 1.2 million people could die from the coronavirus in the US

To create this model, scientists, taking into account the experience of countries such as China and South Korea, measured the three possible strategies to face the pandemic:

  • Suppression: breaking the chains of transmission, effectively trying to stop the epidemic, and reducing cases to as low as possible, as China has done.
  • Mitigation: accept that the coronavirus cannot be stopped, therefore, decrease its spread and try to avoid the maximum point in cases of contagion that would collapse the public health system. That was the British government's strategy until this Monday.
  • Do nothing and the coronavirus attacks the entire population.

"What this model tells us is that we must reduce the curve of cases, with the certainty that we are not going to bring it to zero," Patrick Vallance, the British government's adviser on scientific issues, told the BBC.

The research center's report starts from the most similar scenario that humanity has faced with a virus without an available vaccine: the 1918 H1N1 flu pandemic, when at least 18 million people died around the world.

With that in mind, the model implemented by Imperial College to carry out its measurement takes some variables such as the days of incubation of the virus (5.1 days), the average number of people who were infected per day, the control circumstances that exist when and mortality and recovery rates were spread.

According to the data provided by each country, the policies that were implemented were also taken into account, such as: people who were quarantined for showing symptoms, people who were quarantined because they had contact with another infected person, social distance of people over 70 years, social distance of the entire population and the closure of schools and universities.

To each of these aspects, the specialists applied variables of time and number of infected people, and above all, how this could impact the health system of both countries by counting the available beds in each country.


After the British government's change of strategy, places like train stations began to look empty

After the British government's change of strategy, places like train stations began to look empty

The results puzzled the experts: if no action is taken in both countries, the model points out that the peak of infections will be reached in three months, infecting about 80% of the population and leaving 510,000 people dead in the UK and about 2.2 million in the US

In addition to a collapsed health system.

With the contagion mitigation strategy, in addition to the 255,000 deaths in the United Kingdom and 1.2 million in the United States, the problem would be to maintain the health system for the cases that would occur in the long term.

"Our main conclusion of this model is that the mitigation strategy – the one that the British government carried out – is not feasible because it supposes relying on a health system that would be exceeded by several numbers in its ability to react," The report.

The data indicates that the strategy of suppression, which is the mix of all these policies, would reduce by "two thirds" the demand for medical attention by the health services at the highest point of the crisis and is "the policy correct to deal with the pandemic. "

And he adds: "The social and economic effects to be able to adopt these measures will be profound because they will have to be financed for a time."

Finally, it indicates that many countries have already adopted this strategy to mitigate the impact on society and that even countries such as the United Kingdom where the coronavirus is in an incipient stage – compared to Italy and Spain – should take it imminently.


. (tagsToTranslate) What does the mathematical model that changed the UK's strategy against the covid-19 coronavirus say?