The approach that most authorities from different countries have been employing to defeat the coronavirus pandemic aims to "flatten the curve." But that seems to be the worst way to do it, according to the projection by an international team of researchers.
Many countries have been adapting that approach hoping that warmer weather and a future vaccine will help fight the virus. However, little do they know, it could harm economies while having little effect on cutting infections, said Professor Liu Yu from the Peking University.
The team which included Harvard University scientists in the United States said that the turning point will never come, the number of cases at its peak will remain the same as if there are no measures done. They released their non-peer reviewed paper on preprint platform arXiv.org last week.
The downside of "flattening the curve" approach
Some pandemic-response involve in "flattening the curve" includes the closing of public venues and non-essential businesses, and issuing stay-at-home orders to stop further rising of the number of new cases and deaths so the health system could cope up.
The idea is to avoid a spike in new cases and not to eliminate new infections. It is said that the curve has flattened if the number of daily new cases and deaths plateaus. The researchers looked at daily infections, geographical spread of disease, economic output, and public transport in their study. This is to assess the efficacy of different containment policies, particularly the trade-off between the epidemic control and economic development.
There are only a few countries who have been able to stop the spread of the virus with minimum disruption to business, said the researchers. These countries include South Korea, Qatar, Norway, and New Zealand.
Meanwhile, according to South China Morning Post, most developed countries like the United States, Great Britain, France, Italy, and Spain have suffered big blows to their economies due to the soaring infections and death rates. The study found that these countries are no better in containing the virus than their developing nations counterparts such as Iran and Laos.
Thanks to the approach on focusing to flatten the curve, it has disrupted economies of the world and as well as the social life. The researchers said that it was not effective to isolate infected people from the rest of the population and to some extent it was worse than doing nothing.
US President Donald Trump has already proposed lifting some of the pandemic restrictions along with other leaders of some countries. But scientists warn against this without significantly ramping up infection control capacity such as testing, as it will soon backfire to the country.
Do it the South Korea and New Zealand's way
South Korea and New Zealand have shown promising results in controlling the virus in the respective countries. That is why researchers suggested that authorities consider the two countries' less stringent but equally effective strategies which maintained fewer than 10 daily cases and only suffered 0.5 to 4% of their respective economies.
But according to Jaymie Meliker, a professor of public health from Stony Brook University in New York, the model that Liu and his colleagues presented has its limits. It did not indicate a value on each life in the pandemic.
She said, "I could not find how much they estimate a life is worth in their cost-benefit model. If the hospitals are overrun and more people are dying because of that, then we need to quantify that cost for a cost-benefit model."
Markel added that those data are needed to evaluate the pros and cons of various containment strategies used by different countries around the world.