I got back into my reading but the procrastination has taken the lead and I have finished the evening, and as a matter of fact the night, poorly. Even though, while eating again at 1 am in the night, I had stumbled upon a short documentary on COVID-19 produced by Netflix. This is definitely to be recommended. It’s part of their ‘Explained’ series. It was rather interesting to learn that following SARS and MERS outbreaks number of scientists were catching bats in China to isolate and identify different viruses and try to predict which one is likely to jump next on humans. In more scientific terms, which one is going to cause the next zoonotic disease. The genome sequence of SARS-CoV-2 is almost identical to SARS-CoV and shares 79.6% of its sequence identity. But most staggering is that 2019-nCoV is 96% identical at the whole-genome level to a bat coronavirus – BatCoV RaTG13, which has been thought to have the least ability to jump on humans.

The testing capacity is being increased to 25,000 a day and the government is still standing behind their policy to increase that capacity by the end of the month to 100,000 a day. No pressure. Germany is currently carrying out 350,000 tests a week and is thinking to scale it up to 4.5 million a week to track every chain of infection. The Economist has pointed out that the Germany testing capacity is dependent on their existing network of nearly 200 private and public laboratories. However, they started ramping up this capacity and developing tests back in January! Perhaps something the UK’s government should have taken a notice of.

The part which is also important is contact tracing and tracking the spread of the virus. I have mixed feelings about the contact tracing but again, if this can be done annonymously or with a legislation protecting people’s privacy to ensure this is a temporary measure that is going to be subject to a review, as the lockdown itself is, then there is no question about rolling it up sooner rather than later. About 18,000 people are being employed to roll out tracing. Matt Hancock said on Thursday during the daily briefing that:

Critically, test, track and trace works more effectively when the rate of new cases is lower. So, the lower the rate of new cases, the more effectively you can keep it down using test, track and trace rather than having to use heavier social-distancing measures.

I am personally not convinced it works better only when the cases are down. This plausible explanation serves well the progress the government wants to make but they lack technical ability and it takes time to scale it up. Same with tests. If they would start preparation in January we would be far advanced in the government’s strategy right now.

Furthermore, the death toll is truly grim. Especially among the care homes. Yes, it is true that the deaths are the highest amongst the elderly and vulnerable. The question to be really answered is what really has been done to protect those. The care workers cannot see it, they have not been provided with PPE until late, and deaths are not being allocated correctly. One care worker said yesterday that in her whole career she has never seen anyone dying of Alzheimer’s like that. The government has reversed its strategy and the deaths in care homes will be included from tomorrow in the daily death counts. They said it wasn’t previously possible to do that.

With estimated over 45,000 dead due to COVID-19, the US study by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) in Seattle that claimed 66,000 dead by 4th August, feels awfully likely now. On 7th April even to me, this seemed excessive.

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