Millions of coronavirus deaths? Avoid the worst-case scenario

US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — How many coronaviruses will be killed? No one is yet able to answer this question, but in the worst-case scenario, it could amount to millions around the world, warn experts, who therefore insist on the importance of measures such as containment.

“We have to be realistic and honest: yes, it is possible, and our job, our challenge, is to make sure that it does not happen,” hammered Sunday on CNN Anthony Fauci, globally respected expert, to whom the it was asked if it was possible that hundreds of thousands of Americans would die from Covid-19.

These hypotheses are based on mathematical simulations constructed according to what is known about Covid-19 disease (contagiousness, assumed mortality, etc.).

It should be understood that these projections are not crystal balls, but tools to guide public policies. For this, they therefore consider the worst.

The most important was released on Monday by Imperial College London (ICL), which “communicated it to policymakers in the United Kingdom and other countries in recent weeks”.

First observation: “If no action was taken against the epidemic, we could expect about 510,000 deaths in Great Britain [on a population of 66 million people, about as much as Italy or France] and 2.2 million in the United States “[out of 330 million]. And this without even taking into account the additional deaths caused by the saturation of hospitals.

To arrive at this kind of estimate, the researchers start from a data today commonly accepted: in the absence of measures to fight the epidemic, each Covid-19 patient contaminates two to three people. In this case, “81% of the British and American population” would eventually be infected.

Then we apply the estimated mortality rate of the disease, around 1% of people who report symptoms, knowing that a large proportion of infected people do not report symptoms, or very few.

– Mitigate or stem? –

However, these impressive death numbers are only theoretical, since they are calculated on the assumption that countries do not take any action, which is not the case.

It remains to be seen how effective each of them is. This is what ICL researchers have attempted to assess.

Conclusion: measures to “mitigate” the epidemic (quarantine of identified cases and their families, isolation of subjects at risk such as the elderly or suffering from other pathologies) would not be enough to drastically reduce the number of deaths.

“Countries that are capable of doing so” should rather opt for a second strategy, “containment”, which aims squarely at ending the epidemic.

But it presupposes much stricter measures, such as the isolation (“social distancing”) of the whole population or the closure of schools, as part of European countries have now decided.

These measures have “significant economic and social cost”, recognize the researchers. According to them, they could therefore be reduced on an ad hoc basis, but should be put back in place as soon as the number of cases begins to increase again.

And, in total, they should be “maintained for the time necessary to develop a vaccine”, which could take … “18 months or more”.

The publication of this report coincided with the adoption of this kind of drastic measures by France and with a change of strategy in the United Kingdom.

On Monday, this country considerably strengthened its measures, asking in particular to avoid contact and any “non-essential” displacement.

– Tests –

Until now, the government of Boris Johnson had taken minimalist actions, betting on the fact that a circulation of the virus in the population would end up creating a “group immunity” (the disease goes away by itself lack of new people to contaminate).

Problem: such a strategy would lead to “250,000 deaths in Britain and 1.1 million in the United States,” warned the ICL.

For its part, the scientific committee which advises the French authorities estimated in a report that “if we let the virus spread (…), we expect that at least 50% of the population will be infected” , with “hundreds of thousands of deaths in France”.


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The article is written and prepared by our foreign editors from different countries around the world – material edited and published by Ordo News staff in our US newsroom press.