04. March 2020

Learning from Wuhan — there is no Alternative to the Containment of COVID-19 Learning from Wuhan — there is no Alternative to the Containment of COVID-19

Otto Kolbl and Maximilian Mayer

An academic text by Maximilian Mayer, among others, on ways to combat the pandemic. 

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Virtually all experts quoted in by media stated that a pandemic-like outbreak of COVID-19 in Western countries is becoming unavoidable. The declared objective is to spread out the epidemic over time. However, all available data from China in addition to the concrete experience of people in Wuhan and now Iran shows that this change of policy would lead to a horrendous situation. Due to the overloading of healthcare systems, most people coming to hospitals with severe and critical pneumonia, gasping for breath and chocking as a result of water accumulating in their lungs, will have to be sent home to die when they could otherwise be saved. Two figures, among others, indicate that even in case of an epidemic spread out over time, every healthcare system will be totally overwhelmed by the sheer number of cases. Even with optimal preparation and organization, it will be possible to only treat a tiny fraction of critical cases. In all of China, the spread of SARS-CoV-2 has come to a halt after less than 80,000 cases of infection, thanks to the tough measures taken since the second half of January. Most of them got infected before January 23. In many cases, their state deteriorated only progressively. As of Feb. 23, almost 10,000 people were still hospitalized and considered "severe" cases. Now consider that experts estimate that 40-70% of the adult population will get infected. This gives you an idea of the numbers we can expect. This virus kills slowly, but if patients don't get optimal care, it kills massively. Every outbreak out of control will overload even the best healthcare system, but it will do so incrementally, so that we don't realize it before it is too late. Then again, if we expand testing capacity now and make it efficient enough, we could keep this under control and have a normal life, including intense social and cultural activities, with few occasional cases that would get adequate treatment. The recent developments in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan have shown this.


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