American Nobel Laureate: The world will be fine, but we need to control one thing

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American Nobel Laureate: The world will be fine, but we need to control one thing

MICHAEL LEVITT, a Nobel laureate and biophysicist at Stanford, began analyzing cases of global coronavirus infection back in January and correctly predicted that China would emerge from the worst phase of the epidemic long before the rest, unlike various experts who predicted something else.

Levitt now claims that the United States and the rest of the world will undergo the same process, writes the Los Angeles Times.

“We need panic control now. Everything else will be fine.”

While many epidemiologists have been warning for months, even years, that the world is facing years of struggles with social instability and millions of deaths, Levitt says the data available simply does not support such a scenario. Especially not in areas where reasonable social distance measures are in place.

“What we need now is panic control,” Levitt said. If we look at it from a world perspective, we will be fine, emphasizes the Nobel laureate.

Here's what Levitt spotted in China: On January 31, 46 new deaths were caused by coronavirus. 42 new deaths more than the day before. Although the number of new deaths has been steadily increasing, the rate of increase has been decreasing. It was an early sign that the epidemic curve was changing its course.

The Nobel Prize predictions turned out to be correct. Here's what it means for the world

In a simple example, Levitt tried to explain what it was all about.

“Think of the epidemic as a racing car chasing the freeway. Although it is speeding up, it is not accelerating as it has been accelerating before. This means that the rate of deaths will decrease further over the next week,” Levitt wrote in a February 1 report to his friends and has been widely shared on Chinese social networks. Soon his prediction proved correct.

The number of deaths from Covid-19 disease continued to decline.

Just three weeks later, Levitt told China Daily News that the virus's spread had reached its peak. He predicted that the total number of people who would become infected with coronavirus would ultimately be around 80,000, and that about 3,250 people would die from Covid-19 disease.

And that proved to be incredibly accurate and precise.

On March 16, China had 80,298 diseases and 3,245 deaths, a country that has a population of 1.4 billion and 10 million people die each year. The number of new infections has fallen to just about 25 infected a day, with the disease no longer spreading locally since mid-March.

Now Levitt, who won the 2013 Nobel Prize in chemistry for developing complex models of chemical systems, sees similar situations in other countries.

“Data is still noisy, but there are clear comparative growth trends”

It even includes those that have not introduced the draconian isolation measures that were in place in China, especially in Wuhan, the focus of the pandemic. Levitt analyzed data from 78 countries that reported more than 50 new Covid-19 cases every day, and found many signs of recovery in many.

In his calculations, Levitt does not take the total number of patients in a country, but deals with the number of new cases on a daily basis, and is particularly interested in how the number of new cases changes day by day.

“The data is still noisy, but there are clear signs of slow growth,” Levitt points out.

South Korea, for example, is adding more cases of coronavirus infection to the total number of patients each day, however, the number has fallen over the past few days and remains firmly below 200. This suggests, according to Levitt, that the spread of the infection is slowing.

Countries that have avoided the initial spread of the infection must be alert. The virus can return

The number of new daily cases in Iran the previous week was relatively constant, not rising rapidly – on March 16, there were 1,053 new cases of infection, while on Sunday, March 22, the number was 1028. Levitt points out that the sample suggests that the epidemic in Iran crossed its mid-point.

The epidemic in Italy, on the other hand, is in expansion. There, the number of new cases increased over the past week almost every day.

Countries that have resisted the initial spread of the infection must take into account that there is a chance that the coronavirus may return, Levitt warns. China is currently battling new infections as their residents return home from countries where the virus is spreading uncontrollably. Other countries will certainly face this problem, Levitt concludes.

Levitt does not avoid the fact that the data is extremely noisy and messy and that the numbers infected in some areas are too low or relatively inaccurate because not enough people have been tested.

“The numbers are not complete, but a steady decline means that something is wrong, not that we have noisy data,” the Nobel laureate added.

The infection of a large number of people on the Diamond Princess cruiser served as a great experiment for scientists

In other words, as long as the reasons for the inaccurate figures remain the same, it is useful to compare them every day.

The trajectory of deaths supports its findings and conclusions as it follows trends in finding new infections.

They are also backed up by data on the spread of the infection indoors, like the one on the Diamond Princess cruiser. Of the 3711 passengers, 712 were infected with the coronavirus and eight were killed.

This unintended experiment will help scientists estimate how many people could die if a population became fully infected.

Data from the Diamond Princess cruiser helped Levitt by estimating that coronavirus exposure would double one's risk of death over the next two months. Because most people are at extremely low risk of death for two months, that risk remains very low even if it doubles, Levitt concludes.

Amherst University of Massachusetts biostatist Nicholas Reich says Levitt's analysis has made everyone think.

“Time will tell if his predictions are correct,” Reich says, adding:

“I think different experts can contribute to this fight because in the coming weeks we will have to make some tough decisions.”

Levitt supports anyone who thinks the epidemic should be combated with rigorous measures. Social distance is crucial, especially when it comes to banning large gatherings.

Italy was overthrown by a policy of no vaccination

“The virus is new, the population has no immunity, the vaccine will not be available anytime soon. Now is not the time to get drunk with friends,” Levitt points out.

He says it's important to get the flu vaccine because the flu epidemic can put pressure on hospitals, making it easier for the coronavirus to spread.

“That was probably a crucial factor in Italy, a country where vaccination is strongly advocated,” Levitt said.

The Nobel Prize also blames the media for, he points out, spreading unnecessary panic over the number of patients and highlighting celebrities who became infected.

“By comparison, 36 million Americans have had the flu from last September to the present, and 22,000 have died. But very little is written about it,” he added.

What will be in the US?

Levitt fears that stringent public health measures that have shut down large parts of the economy could cause a real disaster in America's health care system. Lost jobs lead to poverty, which in turn leads to hopelessness and depression.

Numerous surveys from year to year have shown that the number of suicides is increasing as the economy collapses.

“The virus can only grow exponentially when it is undetectable and unchecked. People who say they have it should be considered heroes. We should aim for early detection of the virus,” Levitt said, adding that the death rate from coronavirus infection is higher than there is the flu, but not necessarily the end of the world.

“The real reality of this situation is that it is not all that awful as it is presented,” Levitt believes.

Dr. Loren Miller, a physician majoring in infectious disease research at UCLA's Biomedical Innovation Institute, claims it's too early to draw any conclusions.

“China stopped the epidemic in the short term. What will happen in the US? We don't know,” Miller concludes.

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American Nobel Laureate: The world will be fine, but we need to control one thing

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