# Behind the curve. The mathematics of deaths.

Peter Fairbrother peter at tsto.co.uk
Thu Mar 12 14:54:54 PDT 2020

Behind the curve. The mathematics of deaths.

The present United Kingdom strategy on COVID-19 was to initially try to
contain the virus with a weak containment policy, and when that failed
to move to the "delay phase" we are in now to try to slow its spread.
heathcare requirements over time, and thereby allow more per-patient care.

An underlying assumption and consequential end result of that policy is
that practically everybody in the UK will inevitably eventually catch
the virus.

And the Red Death will hold illimitable dominion over all.

The strategy made sense if, as was believed when it was made, there
would be no way of eventually stopping the epidemic by containment,
something I myself believed.

However, that does not seem to be the case: the disease is not quite as
infectious as at first thought, as recent evidence shows that the
Chinese have managed to slow it almost to a stop using strong confinement.

If they succeed in containing the disease, as seems very likely, then
most Chinese people will never catch the virus - whereas if the present
UK policy is continued then at some point a majority of people in the UK
will catch the disease, and a million people will die unnecessarily [1].

So what new policy should be adopted? Well we have the Chinese example
to follow. Strong containment is working for the Chinese, it should work
for us.

All people entering the UK should be quarantined. The UK has a "moat" in
the seas surrounding it, and should take advantage of that.

Schools and universities should close. Large public gatherings should be
banned.

People should be encouraged to wear masks, not discouraged - even a tiny
difference in transmission rate can be the straw which will make the
difference between the epidemic dying out or growing: that is how the
chain reaction of an epidemic works. If each infected person infects
more than one other person on average then the epidemic spreads, if on
average each infected person infects less than one then the epidemic
dies out.

We should be taking extreme measures to get that figure of new
infections per case down to less than 1. Testing should be stepped up by
at least an order of magnitude. Medical staff should have the power to
require testing, and if positive then quarantine should be enforced if
necessary.

But most of all, we have to stop thinking that a million people will die
and there is nothing we can do to prevent it.

Diligent and intense containment can work if we are willing to pay the
price now, the Chinese example is proof of that. Any delay in
implementing strong containment will cost lives. Failing to implement
strong confinement will result in a million unnecessary deaths over the
next few months.

[1] "One death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic." - Joe
Stalin.

The UK age demographic contains more older people than the Chinese, and
older people are far more likely to die of COVID-19 than younger people;
so the UK fatality rate would be more than the Chinese rate, which works
out to a bit over a million deaths if we assume 3/4 of the population
get the virus.

A delay to provide better health care might reduce the death toll to
about a million. Strong confinement now could reduce it to a few thousand.

Peter Fairbrother