Outbreaks like COVID-19 spread exponentially, and that's why social distancing is the key to flatten the curve.
Probably, your plans for 2020 have changed drastically by now. The night you were making your new year's resolutions for this year, you probably hadn't even heard about this virus. Three months down the road, the whole world has changed. This is because the COVID-19 is showing exponential growth across the globe.
This is how human brain normally perceives growth, in a linear fashion.
However, exponential growth looks something like this: 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024, and so on.
In both of the above cases, numbers start out small and remain small for a time. But quickly the growth difference becomes evident. This is why the exponential growth of the pandemic is troubling the world.
The new coronavirus has an R0 of roughly 2 to 2.5, meaning that each new person spreads the disease to about 2.2 people on average. R0 refers to the average number of people that one sick person goes on to infect, among a group that has no immunity to the virus.
At a glance, we might just think that, on average a person might just transmit disease to 2 to 2.5 person. But, the people who got newly infected will also go on infecting around same number of people. And, those infected by the them will do the same, resulting in exponential growth.
Despite the ever-increasing volume of travel bans and restrictions, coronavirus is spreading rapidly across the globe. Researchers say that the major cause of rapid spread of the coronavirus is due to movement of people with no or mild symptoms, namely those who are unaware that even have virus.
One preliminary study from Germany showed that people had high viral loads in swabs taken from their noses and throats during first week of symptoms after contracting the virus. This means that although they may initially experience few to no symptoms, people who have contracted the virus may still be able to pass it on without realizing.
Now, just remember how many people you used to meet and have contact with on a daily basis before this scenario.
The total number of infected cases a month ago was below hundred thousand and at the time of writing this article, it has crossed a million. So, will this exponential growth go on increasing forever? The answer is no. It will start to slow down at some point. The crucial question is when.
In addition, the "exponential growth" can be stemmed, suppressed and slowed through a number of actions that we have the ability to take, both as individuals and as a collective society.
Social distancing is the key to contain the virus.
Social distancing means increasing the physical space between people to prevent the spread of a contagious disease. That means no meeting with the people unless you need to. Social distancing puts a space between people and when infected people stay away from others, they won’t be passing it to anyone else. Fewer people gets sick at same time. So, doctors and hospitals are better able to keep up with treating those who need care.
So, what can one do? One should reduce the rate of contact with other people. Public places, and unnecessary social gatherings with large number of people should be avoided. If one can work from home, one should. If going out, then a distance of at least six feet should be maintained and any kind of physical contact should be avoided.
Surely, there will be negative impacts of social distancing like loneliness, negative impact on economy and so on. But this is a trade off for saving lives. And everybody’s got only one.
Everyone who intentionally limits their social contact can help us break a link in the chain of contagion.
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