A study published today by Imperial College, a renowned science, technology and medicine institution in London, compares possible scenarios for the evolution of the new coronavirus (covid-19) in Brazil. Between the worst and the best chance, the difference in the death toll would be 1.05 million people.
The English university calculates the consequences of 14 possible scenarios for facing the pandemic: 11 with mitigation actions, in which there would be more infected and more fatal victims; and another three with suppression actions, where the consequences would be less.
The best calculated scenario would be with 75% of the entire population in quarantine, tests for all suspected patients and, as a consequence, a “flattening” of the infected curve. At this level, if Brazil managed to get deaths at the rate of two per week for every million inhabitants, in the end the number of deaths by covid-19 in the country would not exceed 44.3 thousand. Under these conditions, about 250 thousand people would pass through hospitals; at the peak of the pandemic, there would be a demand for 72,000 beds at the same time.
In the worst case scenario, if no one is quarantined and the tests are not multiplied, each infected patient will have contact with a greater number of people. Under these conditions, there would be up to 188 million contaminated (equivalent to 88% of the entire Brazilian population) and 1.1 million dead. More than 6.2 million people would pass through hospitals in the country because of the coronavirus.
In quarantine scenarios for the elderly only, the number of deaths would vary between 322 thousand and 530 thousand, depending on the transmission rate and public health measures.
The social isolation only of the elderly and other at-risk groups was defended this week by President Jair Bolsonaro (without a party). The London University study does not calculate this specific scenario.
Imperial College takes into account four possible transmission rates (from 2.4 to 3.3 new cases for each infected person) and three different types of isolation (none, just the elderly or the entire population). It also takes into account collective health measures, such as the availability of tests and the isolation of confirmed cases.
The study concludes that “the rapid adoption of proven public health measures, including testing, case isolation and greater social distance” are essential to contain the impact of the pandemic. This is what would “flatten” the contaminated curve, which would reduce the burden on hospitals and consequently reduce the proportion of deaths per week – one of the variables calculated by Imperial College.
“Our findings suggest that all countries face a choice between intensive and expensive measures to suppress transmission or risk that health systems quickly become overburdened,” warns one of the study’s authors, Dr. Patrick Walker. “The results highlight that rapid, decisive and collective action will now save millions of lives,” he says.
Researchers estimate that if there was no preventive measure against covid-19, the virus would infect up to 7 billion people worldwide (91% of the world population) and make up to 40 million fatal victims.