Good News: the Containment Measures are Working

After weeks and months of rather drastic measures we can see the glimpse of how the lockdowns are making a difference. Here are the snapshots from worldometer:

New cases dropping

New cases leveling off

New Cases switching from exponential to linear

Japan: no Worldometer breakdown, data from Wikipedia

Inconclusive, but apparently sub-exponential

What does it mean for the future? That it takes about a week of a severe lockdown to switch from the exponential growth to linear, about two weeks to switch to leveling off, and three to four weeks to start seeing a meaningful decline. If this pattern holds, then the dire projections of millions dying would not come to pass. The overall toll is likely to be around 100,000 in 2020 if most countries adopt the China/​Korea/​Italy/​Spain-level measures. Moreover, the worst of the pandemic, or at least of this first wave, will be over in 2-3 months, as long as the containment measures are in place, and the countries and jurisdictions that are proactive enough will not have to resort to the worst of the ICU triage any time soon.

This was the good news. The bad news is that this is not sustainable in the medium to long term, given the impact of the measures on the economy, mobility and lifestyle. But maybe the effort to flatten the curve is not in vain. The question is, what’s next? Who knows? A viable vaccine is at least a year away, the ICU bed count ramp up may help, some of the social distancing measures such as deliveries, takeouts, telecommuting may prove sustainable enough, but that doesn’t seem like nearly enough in the long term.