The SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus) seems unstoppable as it rampages across North America and Europe. Bill Gates, the person who warned that the world is not prepared for the next pandemic, said that we’re facing a “once in a lifetime pathogen.” In February, the Microsoft co-founder said that the virus can cause more than 10 million deaths.
A month later, Gates suddenly changed his outlook from bleak to optimistic. He’s right to do so as data shows that with the right measures, the virus can be controlled.
If a country does a good job with testing and ‘shut down’ then within 6-10 weeks they should see very few cases and be able to open back up,
On Reddit, Gates provided more information on what he meant by shutting down.
The current phase has a lot of the cases in rich countries. With the right actions including the testing and social distancing (which I call ‘shut down’) within 2-3 months the rich countries should have avoided high levels of infection.
The success of China and South Korea in dealing with the outbreak indicates that Bill Gates is right on the money.
Countries all over the world are imposing lockdowns after seeing that China is winning the fight against the novel coronavirus. A recent research revealed that Beijing’s decision to lockdown Wuhan reduced over 200,000 cases in China.
After Wuhan, Beijing also clamped down on the entire Hubei province which has a population of 50 million. The extreme measure is now paying dividends.
The number of cases in China has been in a strong downtrend while cases outside the country have been surging. Today, China has no new local infections. Bill Gates is right to say that social distancing works.
South Korea faced the coronavirus without locking down its population. Instead, it implemented the largest and most organized testing program in the world. The country has tested over 270,000 people, amounting to 5,200 tests per million inhabitants according to ScienceMag. In comparison, the U.S. has conducted 74 tests per one million inhabitants.
South Korea’s investment in massive testing appears to be paying off. The country has 245 new cases today down from the high of 909 on February 29th. The large scale testing is enabling the country to implement contact tracing and effectively isolate suspected patients.
The entire lifespan of the virus, from infection to recovery, is less than one month. A recent study concluded that the median incubation period of the coronavirus is over five days. Symptoms often develop within 11.5 days after the infection.
The timeline for recovery is more or less the same. A study involving 100 recovered patients in Singapore showed that patients were discharged 11 days after the confirmation of the infection.
So from incubation to recovery, we are looking at a timeline of over 22 days.
If people practice social distancing for 6 – 10 weeks, that is more than enough time to completely eradicate the virus. The virus dies if it cannot find another host to replicate.
As data pours in, it is only right for Bill Gates to become optimistic. We may want to consider following his lead.
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