Everything has been turned on its head by Covid-19. Yesterday was meant to have been Senior V’s last day at school. There is huge uncertainty as to what’s going to happen re their SEC exams. Today Minister of Health Chris Fearne announced further measures to reduce the rate of infection by Covid-19. One of them is the mandatory lockdown of chronically ill people under the age of 65 and all people over 65. We are going to have to find a way to make sure that mum’s needs are met whilst at the same time keeping our distance away from her.
Today wasn’t as productive a day as yesterday. Yesterday I was on a roll, moving from task to task efficiently and with motivation. Today, not so much. I think a walk in the early morning should help with this.
For the last few weeks, I’ve been trying to get to grips with the maths of Covid-19. My maths never progressed beyond O level. However, I have always been fascinated by numbers. In a way, numbers speak to me. All the contact tracing described by Superintendent of Public Health Professor Charmaine Gauci in her news conferences reassures. For some reason, an image is conjured up of a fire break in a forest, stopping a fire from progressing further. Every one of the infected people identified and quarantined is a fire break in my head.
A few days ago I came across this Channel 4 News clip of Professor Hugh Montgomery comparing the contagiousness of the influenza virus with that of the Covid-19 virus. In this video clip, Professor Montgomery describes how one person with influenza will infect on average 14 people if the virus is passed on ten times. Whilst one person with Covid-19 will infect on average 59 000 people if the virus is allowed to be passed on ten times. So I used Excel to do the maths because I couldn’t quite see how there could be this huge difference. And, of course, he’s absolutely right. Hence the importance of the contact tracing. Every infected person stopped from infecting anybody else will mean that they will not be responsible for the potential infection of 59 049 more people with Covid-19.
A virus replicates itself exponentially. The contagion of Covid-19 grows exponentially. One person gets it and then infects 3 people on average. The 3 becomes 9, the 9 becomes 27… Before you know it, the 19 683 becomes
59 049. Every contagion stopped is a victory.
The name of the game is flattening the curve. When the number of cases of Covid-19 is plotted against time, you get an exponential growth curve. The graph isn’t a straight line because the increase in the number of cases is not constant. Instead the rate of infection increases so the slope of the graph increases too. This is what creates the upwards curve. If no measures were taken to control the rate of infection, then the graph would be extremely steep, rising to a peak well above the country’s healthcare system capacity. We’ve seen this in Italy and other countries. We need to flatten the curve so that the peak is never beyond the Maltese healthcare system capacity. Yes, this means that we’re going to have to live with Covid-19 for a longer time but better this than what we see happening in Italy and elsewhere.