William Hanage, This pandemic has only started (The Guardian)…


Excerpts from:

People are understandably looking for good news. But the truth is, we’re nowhere near controlling coronavirus.

Talk of the “peak” can be misleading, because it’s not clear whether you are talking about the Matterhorn or Table Mountain – both have a summit, but the peak is far more pronounced in one than the other. In countries such as Italy (unlike Wuhan) the initial surge in the Covid-19 pandemic has not evaporated quickly. There are multiple reasons for this but the most important is that the impact of physical distancing achieved in China has been hard to accomplish elsewhere, mostly because of the freedoms we correctly value in liberal democracies.

Worse, there may be a mountain range. In other words, what is happening right now could be just one peak – not the peak. And the reason for this is that despite all those positive signs from antibody testing, the huge majority of the population is not immune.

inding a vaccine to offer a complete solution to this pandemic is, even in the best scenarios, is still a long way off But it is not hard to see many ways we can slow the pace of the pandemic and save lives. One of them is greatly improved testing to identify cases and their contacts, which could be supplemented by clever digital methods to spot who has been at risk.

Governments around the world are attempting ways to keep jobs and businesses afloat while lockdowns are in place – but the pressure remains to swiftly end such shutdowns. I get that this is going to be a mammoth strain on the economy. But the deaths of many thousands of people would be too: it is simply not possible to thoroughly insulate an economy from the impact of a pandemic of this kind.

Where I live, in Cambridge Massachusetts, I keep hearing sirens. This crisis is not close to over, quite the reverse. The pandemic is only just getting started.

• Dr William Hanage is a professor of the evolution and epidemiology of infectious disease at Harvard



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