“Dynamic” physical distancing could help balance the fight against COVID-19, the economy: study


New study by Ontario researchers suggests new study by Ontario researchers suggests increasing or decreasing physical distance measures may be a way to support the long-term fight against COVID-19 without crushing the economy.

Scientists at the University of Toronto and the University of Guelph have used mathematical modeling to predict the course of the disease in Ontario.

Their basic modeling revealed that 56% of the province’s population would be infected with the new coronavirus in the next two years.

At the height of the crisis, 107,000 Ontarians would be hospitalized with 55,000 people in intensive care, according to modeling figures, if nothing were done. The province currently has approximately 2,000 intensive care beds.

However, research has suggested that so-called “dynamic” physical distance could help prevent the healthcare system from being overwhelmed while allowing “periodic psychological and economic respite for people.”

Physical distance is an effective tool in curbing the spread of the disease, said public health agencies across Canada.

The key, says lead author of Ashleigh Tuite, is to “ride the wave” – by combining physical distance measures with the number of intensive care beds used, these restrictions can be relaxed when the number of treatments intensive decreases, then tightens when the number near capacity.

“Instead of a strong epidemic curve from top to bottom, we have something that is stretched and goes up and down, from top to bottom, and we basically modulate our responses according to our position in this curve,” said Tuite. , assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of T.

“When things start to pick up again, we know we need to improve our measures of social or physical distancing. And when things slow down, we can potentially return to normal life a little more. “

The document was submitted to the Canadian Medical Association Journal in late March and published in a pre-printed version which has not yet been peer reviewed.

Amy Greer, one of the study authors, said it was another method of saving time in society until a vaccine was available, which is probably more than a year away .

“Without access to a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine, we will have to work hard to slow down community transmission while recognizing that we cannot reasonably maintain an aggressive physical distance in the long term until a vaccine be available, “said Greer.

Ben Bolker, a professor of mathematics and biology at McMaster University who was not involved in the research, called it a “reasonable study.”

“The really difficult part is understanding how it will all work at the government, logistical and bureaucratic level,” he said.

He said one potential method would be to change the laws regarding the number of people who can gather at one time.

Tuite and Bolker said more tools will come soon that may help. On the one hand, they said, comprehensive testing would allow the province to dig into hotspots and ensure that isolation measures are imposed on these people.

It could also allow some people to return to work.

“It sucks that we have to keep the economy closed for a bunch of time,” said Bolker. “But during this time, we are gathering information and trying to figure out how the hell we are going to get out of it.” “

Atif Kubursi, a retired economics professor at McMaster University, said the study was a good starting point for how to fight the disease in the next two years.

“This is one of the most important questions at the moment: how can you balance the risk of increased morbidity and death with the destruction of the economy? ” he said.

Kubursi points out that the study is not part of economic modeling and the effect of starting and stopping businesses – something he would like to see taken into account in future research.

“It sounds a bit simplistic,” he said. “I don’t know how easy it is to turn the economy on or off, but I guess there are steps you can take to make business essential again. “

“We would need to know the answer to the question: is it worth it? Can we bring people back to jobs in large numbers for short periods? Said Kubursi.

“If we can, that may be a way to keep the economy in place, to move it forward. It might be worth it. “

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on April 9, 2020.

© Copyright Times Colonist


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