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Can we turn the tide?

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was surprisingly upbeat at his news conference in saying effectively that the United Kingdom will see the Covid-19 crisis through in twelve weeks, or as he put it 'turn the tide'.   Was he right to be so optimistic?

It is always good for leaders to offer hope and maintain morale, but where is Boris getting his twelve-week estimate from?

Boris' twelve weeks probably comes from the modelling.   The models predict that 50% of cases will come in the first three weeks and 90% over nine weeks.  Currently, we see cases doubling about every four days, which is very much in line with the modelling.

The governments objective is to delay the peak, pulling it out so that the burden on the NHS is reduced.  It is a strategy to buy time.   If it works, it might save lives because it will free up resources to deal with the severity of cases.



Nonetheless, challenging life and death decisions will have to be taken by clinicians about who they can save.  How best they can concentrate their efforts with limited resources.

Italy shows how devastating it can be if control of the spread is lost.   Despite the actions taken by the Italian authorities, deaths are now over 4,000 for a population of just 60 million.

There is much for the United Kingdom to be concerned about from the situation in Italy.  The death toll is mostly attributed to the high proportion of elderly in the population and overstretched health resources.

The analysis shows that almost 40 per cent of infections and 87 per cent of deaths in Italy have been in patients over 70 years old.  

Buying time is probably the right strategy, but it critically depends on people making it work. This is why the authorities have shut down pubs, clubs, theatres, restaurants.   The fewer people are gathering, the slower will be the spread of the virus. 

Preventing infections in older people is clearly essential if the strategy is to work.  They are the most vulnerable, statistically. 

The government is right to give encouragement that the 'tide can be turned'.  The people will need to lift their spirits.   We need to work together to keep people safe and protect the most vulnerable.  Else our NHS will be overwhelmed.








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