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Don’t talk about Covid-19s “waves” – this is not the Spanish flu

Since the pandemic The danger of a second, more deadly wave of coronaviruses has aroused public imagination. The fear that provokes viral Facebook posts and influences government strategy is that this pandemic will follow a course similar to that of the Spanish flu of 1918. Two thirds of the 50 million deceased would do so during a so-called “second wave” from October to December 1918. But this fear can be misdirected. The world is not yet at the height of the first wave. And until we get a vaccine, it probably never will.


This story originally appeared on WIRED UK.

The pandemic is still accelerating worldwide. The first case was reported in China in late December. From that date, it took three months to reach a million cases. The jump from 1

2 million cases to 13 million cases only took five days. A Reuters The total number of deaths is 570,000. Daily deaths peaked in mid-April at 10,000 a day. since then they have been around the 5,000 mark.

The countries continue to break dark records. In Latin America, where the disease is accelerating fastest, Brazil reported another 24,000 cases on July 12, for a total of 1.87 million. India, which was initially successful in containing the virus, reported a record surge on July 11 – 27,114 cases – and increased the national total to over 800,000.

In the most affected nation in the world, the United States, 20 states, and Puerto Rico reported a record average of new infections last week Washington Post. Five states – Arizona, California, Florida, Mississippi and Texas – also broke records for average daily deaths during this period. The U.S. total is now more than 3,290,000 cases and 132,000 deaths. “The virus is not under control in most parts of the world,” said WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus last week. “It gets worse.”

While the spread of the virus in every country is determined by a variety of factors, one thing that links high infection and mortality rates is the severity of a country’s interventions – school and work closures, restrictions on international and domestic travel, bans on public gatherings, public information campaigns, tests and contact tracking. Oxford University researchers daily collected data on a range of containment and closure measures in 170 countries from January 1 to May 27. The results were conclusive: the earlier and harder a country is blocked, the lower the number of fatalities. “The case is closed to best curb this,” said Amitava Banerjee, associate professor of clinical data science at University College London. “The less strict your measures are, the more deaths you have per mile of land.”

Easing these closures has proven difficult – nations that previously controlled the outbreak have reported new outbreaks. Israel, for example, reported nearly 1,000 new cases on July 5 and had to reintroduce restrictions. South Korea has reported several new infection clusters that come from nightclubs and offices.

The importance of government intervention could explain why the virus has not yet devastated lower-income countries. “One of the reasons why some low-income countries have had relatively low cases is because they followed the advice better,” Banerjee says. He gives the example of Dharavi in ​​Mumbai, India, one of the largest slums in Asia. “Compared to every metric on the planet, it is terribly disadvantaged, but has had relatively fewer cases and a lower mortality rate,” he says. The reason? People wore masks and the authorities implemented an aggressive testing and tracing system in addition to using GPS and CCTV surveillance.

For example, in lower-income countries, there are also younger populations who are generally at lower risk of hospitalization and death. The time the epidemic reaches a country will also have an impact. “For example, if the virus appeared in Europe in January, we didn’t see the big outbreaks until March. It took three months for the infection rate to be high enough to be noticed in hospitals, ”said Martin Hibberd of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. As a result, some countries, with relatively few cases at the moment, may be at the very beginning of their first wave.

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