Yesterday I recorded a video with Jonny from the UK. He’s a maths and computer modelling wizard and he’s built a very sobering model of the spread of the novel SARS Corona virus 2 and the implications for outbreaks of Covid-19 disease. Overnight Trump took measures that are less drastic than Israel’s but welcome nevertheless.
The spreadsheet is here: make a copy and change some numbers. You really need Chrome or Brave for this to work well. This video is also on YouTube here.
The first time I played with this after watching his videos I immediately understood the actions my government in Israel was taking and those of South Korea and what China belatedly did after waiting way too long.
I’ve spoken many times of my contempt for computer modeling of the Earth’s climate to make predictions of the distant future and claims about man’s influence. In my opinion that use of computer modelling and the way it is reported and manipulated is downright dishonest.
The modeling of the spread of a biological contagion, however, is a very different proposition and is a perfect candidate for this kind of modelling. It’s very clear from the actions being taken by the Israeli government, for example, that they’re using a similar model to the one Jonny has put on Google for anyone to use.
The point here for amateurs is not to get the numbers right, it’s to try changing initial conditions or the speed with which containment measures like quarantine are imposed and see how many people you can save or kill by moving one number.
The big message is that very large numbers of people die when your country run out of hospital capacity. In reality this maybe even more local. When that happens as appears to have been the case in Italy right now, large numbers of otherwise saveable people die. And nobody seems to be counting deaths caused by a lack of access for all other sick people.
Finally I want to mention the idea of levels of security. I believe this drives the way the Israeli government is reacting. The first thing was shutting flights and travel from a steadily growing area until they now force anyone arriving into 14 day quarantine. That’s destroyed our tourist industry.
They haven’t YET closed all schools (because this causes horrific problems with medical staff and other essential workers staying home with their kids). But if there is a credible chance the any given schools has come into contact with a patient, they shut it. They’ve banned large gatherings indoor and called for many other events to be shut down. If this isn’t done voluntarily I have no doubt it will be mandated.
This seems to be working, we have cases, we have transmission but it is quickly stopped and often we’re finding infected people already at home in self isolation. That is very important. If we keep the R₀ number here in Israel down, we beat this.
I’m not sure how we re-enter the world, when it will be safe for us to travel and allow travel from infected parts of the world, but we keep our older citizens alive. Hopefully we get a vaccine, but in the meantime I approve of what my country’s leadership is doing to keep us safe here in Israel.