Simulations of the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, carried out by scientists from the University of Oxford, have shown that at the moment, up to half of the UK population can be infected with the coronavirus. If the calculations are correct, then less than 0.1% of SARS-CoV-2 carriers show symptoms of the disease requiring hospitalization.
The new model is fundamentally different from previous work on this topic - in particular, from a study conducted by experts from Imperial College London, who recommend a tougher strategy to combat the pandemic. “We need to immediately start large-scale serological studies - testing for the presence of antibodies - to assess where we are in the epidemic right now,” says the lead author of the recent study, Professor Sunetra Gupta.
Unlike most European countries, Great Britain did not close borders and did not restrict movement within the country for a long time. Quarantine measures were recommended only for the elderly. However, the dynamics of the spread of Covid-19 forced London to reconsider its policy: on March 23, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the introduction of a three-week quarantine throughout the country.
The study, led by scientists from Oxford, focuses on the "crowd immunity" model, in which the spread of the virus will stop when enough people are sick. This makes sense if the majority of those infected with the virus are asymptomatic or mildly ill.
Epidemic spread scenarios for a known number of deaths at different contact numbers (R0) and the proportion of the population vulnerable to severe disease (ρ) / © Gupta, Lourenco et al., University of Oxford, 2020
Guptra said she was surprised by the unconditional acceptance of the Imperial College model by the UK government. However, the professor is not going to criticize the authorities yet, because the accuracy of the "Oxford" model has not yet been confirmed. And even if it is correct, social distancing and certain quarantine measures will help reduce the number of people infected and reduce the burden on the national health system.
The authors of the work warn that the free access version of the article is not final and will be supplemented, and has not yet been reviewed. The text of the work was published not even in the archive of preprints, but on the file hosting service DropBox, so the conclusions of the researchers should be treated with some caution. Scientists promise that the program code used in the simulation will be available soon.
As of March 25, almost 429 thousand cases of infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus and 19,152 deaths have been registered in the world. The UK ranks 10th in the number of officially confirmed cases (8077 people) and the seventh line in the number of deaths (422). According to news agencies, the coronavirus has just been diagnosed in the heir to the British throne, Prince Charles.