Predicting peak demand from the Italian experience and learning how to social distance from Chinese
Published 26 March 2020
It has been three days since 27 million people watched Boris Johnson's address to the nation announcing strict curbs to life to help fight the Covid-19 virus. Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte introduced similar measures on the 9th of March. This was just over 14 days ago, which is the incubation period for the Covid-19 disease. So it means we should start to see the results in the data, which we do - see below (reported cases on the top, deaths on the bottom).
Learning from this, the impact of the lockdown and our modelling to date, we are now expecting peak demand in the UK on the 5th of April for admissions and mid-April for critical care bed occupancy. Less than three weeks from now.
The critical question for Trusts now is how much capacity will be needed to manage peak Covid-19 demand - too little, and they will struggle. Equally shifting too much capacity from non-Covid-19 activity could have dire and undesirable consequences. We are helping some Trusts and commissioners to do this with our modelling. These decisions are hugely important to make correctly, but so too is staying home. Concerns in Italy that people are not respecting social distancing ("everyone has become a jogger") have led to controversial mobile phone tracking that has shown 40% of people in Lombardy are not consistently staying at home. This means the triage tents at the front of emergency rooms will be there for some time. Meanwhile, in China growth of new cases has mostly stopped (see chart below) and the temporary hospitals are almost all closed. The quarantine was also set to be lifted in some cities - before several infected people flying back from Europe...
What happens next is not yet clear (second peak, antivirals, vaccine, technology?), but for now staying at home save lives.