The Azimuth Project
Coronavirus Policy View 1

Andrius Kulikauskas, 2020.04.19: I am setting up this page as an example of how critically, logically, mathematically and scientifically thinking people, on their own or working together, can participate as citizens in policy discussions, whether for coronavirus or global warming or other planetary challenges.

My thought is that working alone or in groups we can be writing out our policy arguments. We can then try to get our ideas out into the blogosphere, the social networks, the news media and political circles. We don’t have to all agree, but rather, we can write a series of views that others can pick and choose ideas from. Thus I call this View 1 and I hope that others might write View 2, View 3 and so forth.

As a mathematician, I was concerned in March, 2020, that the media was full of statements about the projected course of the coronavirus by politicians, commentators, and even experts that didn’t make logical sense. On April 9, 2020, here in Lithuania, the nationalist news portal Alkas.lt published my article. I include below a machine translation of my article into English.

My main point is that before we apply mathematics, we have to apply logic. And logically there are two extreme possibilities: Either we aggresively chase down those who are infected and their contacts, and completely eradicate the virus, or a greater portion of humanity will get infected. People wish for a third possibility, that social distancing and a quarantine will be sufficient to make the virus disappear. But that depends on the transmissability of the virus and would need to be borne out by facts. A simple indicator (new cases / total cases) lets us see what various policies are achieving. Increasingly strict policies make for lower exponential growth, but it still remains exponential. The facts suggest that the third possibility is wishful thinking and that there must be widespread testing and chasing down of every single case in order to stop the spread of the virus. Logically, it is clear that the virus will be a problem for a couple of years.

With the passing of time, similar views can be heard more and more in the media. But I think my article contributes some ideas that should be considered widely. First of all, that mathematical models should come after logical thinking about various possibilities. Second, that (new cases / total cases) is a simple and excellent indicator of how countries and regions are doing. Third, that this indicator helps us match a terrace of policies with a terrace of exponential rates.


Coronavirus indicator: New cases / Total cases


Logic and reality indicator for determining how well the coronavirus is being contained

2020.04.09, Andrius Kulikauskas, Original in Lithuanian Machine translated.

How are we doing in Lithuania to control the coronavirus? How are you doing in Italy, the USA, Estonia, Russia and other countries? How to catch numbers? Let’s understand logically and mathematically.

Logic without math can do a lot, and math without logic can do nothing. So I suggest first thinking logically about what will end up, what the three possibilities are. I will then propose an indicator that shows how well countries are doing to stop the spread of coronavirus, whether they should soften or tighten measures. The indicator is quite simple, it is a real increase. It suffices to compare the number of those infected in the last day with the total number of people infected, that is, to divide these two numbers and extract their proportion. Basically, this proportion describes how quickly the number of people infected will double.

Let’s face it, the pandemic has just begun. In the world, out of seven billion people, only one million have been infected so far. I mean, less than one in a thousand, and similarly in Lithuania. Isn’t it too late to figure out where things can end?

Logically, there are three possibilities:

  • We will dig. It will be possible to detect and isolate all those who have been infected and interacted with them, but the virus will disappear completely.
  • We will suppress. By reducing communication, we will weigh the chances of infection so that the spread will exhale on its own.
  • We will give up. Almost everyone will be infected with the virus, and he is unhappy no longer to stick to anything.

What are we aiming for? This is a political issue that our whole country and the whole world should focus on. Mathematical thinking will help you to study it honestly. What is possible and what is likely? What to demand from yourself and others?

A lot of math is not common sense to single out the consequences of the three options, catching on to what politicians, media, and scholars are talking about and not saying.

Worst case scenario

Who responsibly thinks about the worst case? March. On Dec. 30, U.S. Coronavir Control Group coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx warned that the U.S. will die from coronavirus, at worst, between 1,600,000 and 2,200,000. That is, if 1% of those infected die, according to the US immunologist dr. Anthony Fauci, that means between 160 and 220 million Americans will be infected at worst.

If we do not control the coronavirus in Lithuania, and give in to the will of fate, we can expect between 1.4 and 1.9 million of us to be infected and between 14,000 and 19,000. (For comparison, last year 38,000 people died in Lithuania from all causes.) In fact, there may be many more deaths, because the probability of death may reach 5% instead of 1%, especially if the health system collapses, if the national economy collapses, if the world coups, wars, famines and plagues.

The best case scenario

However, we can already envy China and South Korea, which seem to be losing their roots to the coronavirus in their own countries. They tracked down and separated all those infected, as well as those who interacted with them. China has introduced very strict quarantine, during which police have not allowed residents to leave their neighborhoods. South Korea, whose figures are undeniable, has inspected many people. So that only a few dozen out of a million people have been infected in these countries so far.

Maybe we will be jealous of Italy, which is fighting intelligently. April 5 Italian Health Minister Robert Speranza explained to the newspaper La Repubblica that quarantine will not be relaxed until millions of people are tested. And there will be a variety of ways to prevent the virus from spreading until a vaccine is invented. And that, as we know, will last at least a year and a half.

In a word, at best, a happy country will quarantine until it has the means to check the entire population for what is infected and what is not infected. And at best, until there is a vaccine, you will have to follow many instructions to prevent the virus from spreading again. After all, the virus is not saturated. We all remain vulnerable, at best.

Could it be otherwise?

Logical thinking distinguishes between the best case when almost no one becomes infected and the worst case when the majority of the population is infected. Can’t there be an intermediate possibility in logic?

So far, there is a lack of tools in the world to check for coronavirus infections. Trouble tempts to look the third way. It may not be necessary to trace and separate all those infected. Maybe it is enough to reduce the chances of infection?

Such hope is exemplified by the fact that the common flu swells in the winter but subsides in the summer. Although this phenomenon is not scientifically explained, it is known from mathematical modeling that as the conditions change, the number of infected people may not increase, but may decrease. Mathematically, this is expressed by the infection multiplier R0, (that is, the average reproduction number), that is, the average number of other people who would be infected by one infection if no one had immunity. Perishable diseases have high multipliers such as measles (R0 = 15) and chickenpox (R0 = 11). Influenza, meanwhile, is a more severe disease (approximately R0 = 1.5). And this means that reducing communication in society would reduce the flu infection rate below a unit, such as 0.9. And that already means that over time, the flu would go away on its own, as repeated multiplication from 0.9 is available to zero.

In other words, it is logically possible to suppress the virus if we all wash our hands honestly, give up communication, and sit at home. But that word “maybe” means having to take reality into account. And math is glasses that we look at reality as soon as we need microscopes, telescopes, or other lenses.

A reality indicator is needed

Unfortunately, the coronavirus infection multiplier R0 is estimated to be between 1.4 and 3.9. In other words, it spreads much more easily than the flu.

However, it is important not to succumb to the temptation to avoid the worst case scenario, to do without the universal hunt for infectious and communicating with them. It is important not to deviate from reality. This requires an indicator that allows us to monitor how well or where people in the world are coping with the coronavirus.

It would be best to simply monitor live how the virus is doing or failing to bounce from one poor to another. Overall, does this multiplier decrease below the unit? Unfortunately, such knowledge could be possessed unless Global.

Instead, I note the indicator that can be drawn from the figures published daily. But a little discernment is needed. After all, if you asked me about basketball competitions, how Lithuania is doing against Latvia, and I would answer that we currently have 50 points, you would immediately understand that I did not catch up in basketball. After all, what matters is not how many points, but what advantage, whether we are leading by seven points or lagging behind by five. Similarly, I dare to say, as a doctor of mathematics, that the media, both in Lithuania and abroad, give priority to those numbers.

Intentional increment

As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, I propose an indicator that we can calculate for everyone who is just not capable of moving the mathematical muscles developed in their youth. There is nothing terrible about using a smartphone or other calculator. All you have to do is divide the number of people infected in the last day by the number of all people infected.

For example, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), on April 7, 32 people became infected in Lithuania, for a total of 843 people. Dividing these two numbers by 32/843 = 0.04 = 4%. And that, as I will explain, is a reasonably promising number.

This number is an increment. This means that if we add 4% to 100%, we get 104% = 1.04. The number grows by multiplication, so if we multiply it daily by 1.04, we will experience a doubling in eighteen days: 1.04 x 1.04 x 1.04 x 1.04 x 1.04 x 1.04 x 1.04 x 1.04 x 1.04 x 1.04 x 1.04 x 1.04 x 1.04 x 1.04 x 1.04 x 1.04 x 1.04 = 2 approx. In fact, in that time, a large proportion of those previously infected will have recovered, so they are dropping out of the number of others.

What is an example to us in the world?

Let’s compare how other countries are doing. (I’ll admit that for the sake of accuracy it would be better to compare how many got sick today to how many got sick yesterday. Also, to keep track of events, it would be better to take an average of the whole week so .)

  • Bangladesh 28% = 0.28 = 35/123
  • Belarus 19% = 0.19 = 136/700
  • Russia 15% = 0.15 = 954/6343
  • Finland 11% = 0.11 = 249/2176
  • Turkey 10% = 0.1 = 3148/30217
  • USA 8% = 0.08 = 30561/368196
  • India 8% = 0.08 = 354/4421
  • Brazil 8% = 0.08 = 926/12056
  • United Kingdom 7% = 0.07 = 3802/51608
  • Poland 7% = 0.07 = 311/4413
  • Israel 5% = 0.05 = 474/8904
  • France 5% = 0.05 = 3912/74390
  • Sweden 5% = 0.05 = 376/7206
  • Japan 4% = 0.04 = 163/3817
  • Germany 4% = 0.04 = 3834/99225
  • Lithuania 4% = 0.04 = 32/843
  • Iran 4% = 0.04 = 2274/60500
  • Spain 3% = 0.03 = 4273/135032
  • Italy 3% = 0.03 = 3599/132547
  • Taiwan 3% = 0.03 = 10/373
  • Austria 3% = 0.03 = 314/12297
  • Latvia 2% = 0.02 = 9/542
  • Estonia 1% = 0.01 = 11/1108
  • South Korea 0.5% = 0.005 = 47/10331
  • China 0.07% = 0.0007 = 56/82698

Everyone who borrows money faces this interest. Only in this case does the increase accrue not every year, but daily.

This list shows what a useful indicator it is. It can be seen that well-performing countries pay lower interest rates on coronavirus, while poorly performing countries pay higher interest rates. We can scientifically assess how countries are doing what they are achieving with their means.

This indicator also has the advantage that it is too independent of data quality. Suppose there are many innumerable infected people in Russia. Nevertheless, the proportion of those counted will be something like that. It makes sense to observe how this indicator changes, as long as the calculation methodology is stable enough.

Let’s not be fooled!

Logic and math allow everyone to figure out, test, and draw their own conclusions on their own. In conclusion, I will allow myself a few remarks.

It is very easy to deceive with interest. If we cut interest by half, we seem to have saved a lot of money. But in reality, interest rates continue to grow exponentially, only twice as slowly. And that means the same worst case awaits us, only twice as late.

In a country with an increase of 28%, the number of people infected will double every three days, as 1.28 x 1.28 x 1.28 is approximately 2. In Belarus, where the increase is 19%, the number will double every four days. In Russia (15%) every five days, in the USA (8%) every nine days, and in Lithuania (4%), as I mentioned, every eighteen days.

If these increases do not change, in a month’s time there will be 200,000 in Bangladesh, 130,000 in Belarus, 500,000 in Russia, 3,700,000 in the United States and 3,000 in Lithuania. In two months, the entire population in Bangladesh will be infected, including 28,000,000 in Belarus, 37,000,000 in the United States, and 9,000 in Lithuania. Of course, if Lithuania does not comply with the quarantine, then its indicator will be the same as in those countries, most of us will be infected with the coronavirus. It is important to realize that even 4% is an exponential increase nonetheless. If this continues for half a year, most of us will be infected.

This week, we will learn more from the reality of how effective the various measures are and how much these indicators will fall. Given that quarantine has been in place in Italy since 9 March, and in some counties even earlier, it can be assumed that quarantine alone is not enough. We will see how the indicator develops, but it seems that reality will teach that the coronavirus will not exhale, despite our efforts to reduce communication. In other words, that logical possibility, “maybe it will exhale”, will in reality not work.

However, more and more experts and statesmen are arguing that quarantine must remain in place until it becomes possible to inspect the entire population. So says philanthropist Bill Gates, so says immunologist Anthony Fauci, so says U.S. Federal Reserve official James Bullard. In fact, the inspection will cost no more than EUR 100, so for EUR 700 billion we can inspect the whole of humanity. Now we probably already realize that it is very inexpensive. The same experts say that something like quarantine will last until the vaccine is available, which will take about a year and a half.

Let’s live anew

We can wonder how we are relatively successful in Lithuania, how the unity of villagers, townspeople, medics, returnees, media and statesmen is flourishing. However, it is important not to get lost and understand that 4% is not yet 1% and not 0%. Rather, let us hold on and help each other live and work in new conditions. Let’s calm down, educate, love the family, revitalize the village, nurture the online society, get to know our nation anew, perceive humanity anew. We will manage the coronavirus, learn to take decisive and united concern for climate change and all other challenges facing humanity.