As the world tries to understand more about the trajectory of the coronavirus, a study from the Engineering faculty of Imperial College London has produced a hypothesis that, they say, fits a large number of countries so far. Prof Tom Pike found that once lockdown begins, coronavirus follows a similar pattern seen by Wuhan in several countries surveyed.
The model has significant – and grim – implications for the state of New York. Until recently, the USA released nationwide figures on coronavirus infections and deaths. When the figures for individual states were released, it showed the virus was more widespread in New York than had been previously understood. When Prof Pike applies the Wuhan pattern to New York, it suggests deaths there peaking at around 1,000 a day in late April, with 18,000 to 30,000 deaths in total. This compares to a peak of about 150 deaths a day recorded in China, while Italy has seen over 900 deaths in a single day.
As always with Covid studies, big caveats apply - and the uncertainty around the data remains huge. Prof Pike’s speciality is in producing planetary data from a small number of measurements (his study is not to be confused with Neil Ferguson's team at Imperial)÷, so his modelling is relevant here precisely because the input data is so sparse and of such variable quality. He is simply saying that, if New York followed the Wuhan trajectory, this is the timetable and severity that it can expect. The study regards the Wuhan pattern as relevant because it fits the data published by several other countries so far and likely represents a best-case scenario in terms of implementing a stringent lockdown. But the figures are liable to revision: the last couple of days have seen projections for the UK death count rise. The other caveat is that he takes published data, and runs with national definitions of Covid-related deaths. The study makes no judgements about the efficacy of policies, etc. But his projections are certainly of relevance to Americans trying to understand the situation, and what might lie ahead.