Reopening communities involves looking at the epidemiology

As the global COVID-19 crisis continues, countries are taking stock of the current epidemiology information on the disease and attempting to evaluate if it is safe to open their societies again. The number of new cases in several countries has slowed; however, reopening communities too soon may lead to significant spikes in case numbers at a very critical moment, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Some US states have indicated plans to re-open activity, despite no clear indications that it is safe to do so. The current global situation still remains unstable and countries will have to look to statistics on the pandemic to make these decisions.

Johanna Swanson, Product Manager at GlobalData, comments: “There were varying degrees of response to the crisis. Extreme interventions like those seen in China, South Korea, and Singapore were not introduced until much later in Europe and the US. On the other hand, Sweden’s plan of not restricting social interaction has resulted in Sweden having the highest mortality rate from COVID-19 in Scandinavia.”

The response to the crisis will also depend upon population statistics. Populations with underlying health problems, such as respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, severe obesity, cancer, diabetes, and some rare diseases are more severely affected and this should be considered in response decisions. Age is also a strong determinant, with those patients who are over 50 years of age continuing to see the highest rates of severe COVID-19, though younger adults ages 18–49 have severe obesity as the most prevalent risk factor. The case fatality rate for the disease globally is around 7%, with the highest rate among the 80 years and older age group, and with 60% of total mortalities occurring in men.

Swanson concludes: “Comparing data across countries is difficult as the testing rates, availability and criteria can vary widely between countries and differences in the positive testing rate may be indicative of how widely testing is conducted. It is further complicated by the fact that 50–80% of the COVID-19 cases are mild and asymptomatic and thus not likely to be diagnosed. All countries’ reported confirmed cases underestimate the number of actual infected people and the mortality reporting is not standardized.”

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