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Putting the coronavirus pandemic into perspective – Saturday 21st March 2020

Italy has now had at least 800 cases of coronavirus per million of population, with numbers still climbing rapidly.

Spain, at least 500 per million.

South Korea has stabilised at about 170 plus cases per million of population and with only around 1% daily growth in the total number of cases – that’s important

Australia sits at a total of 40 cases per million .  Still quite small numbers, but they have been growing at around 24% per day in the past week.

South Korea – a case study of successful management

South Korea has been very successful at dramatically slowing the growth of their epidemic.

The number of cases in Korea increased ten fold from about 400 to 4000 in 10 days around a month ago.

The South Korean health service had an ideologically difficult group of about 250,000 who shared links with Wuhan and also shared infected homeopathic saline. The result was that about 9,000 of the group became infected over just a few days.

The government acted extremely promptly, doing more tests per head of population than just about any other country. They put in drive through testing stations, and followed up all contacts.

The result was dramatic. From a daily increase of up to 40% per day at its peak they achieved daily growth rates under 10% in under a week. Ten days after that the growth rate was under 1% per day. The numbers have almost flattened off at 8800. (171 cases per million of population), but still with a small growth rate of 1% per day.

By comparison : Australia

We have 40 cases per million of population at the moment. Compare that to Italy’s 800 per million, and growing exponentially.

Our numbers have risen by an average of about 24% per day over the last three days, and have increased eight fold from 112 to 875 in the past 10 days, at current growth rates we will pass the thousand mark within hours.

Last Monday the Prime Minister introduced voluntary self-isolation for all incoming international travellers. In addition, we are practicing social distancing. How do we know if the measures work?

It takes a good week for 95% of those who caught the virus to get sick. So the effect of the self-isolation and general social isolation is going to take a week to kick in.

My guess is we will have a total of 1600 cases by Monday. If our growth slows as successfully as Korea’s growth slowed, we will “only” have 2500 cases next Saturday, and our total numbers could settle to just over 3000 by the beginning of April, with a daily growth rate around 1-2% thereafter.

The task of our health system is to slow the growth of the epidemic so we have the resources available to manage those who need extra help. 

That 3000 cases by early April translates to 120 cases per million of population over 10 weeks and is quite containable. If growth in the total numbers remains under 2% per day, our health services have to be congratulated.

Remember we have 250,000 cases of traditional flu virus in an average year. That number translates to 10,000 cases per million of population per year. But this pandemic still has a long way to run before we can quote a number per year, and we don’t have a vaccine yet


The graph shows our “best case” scenario. See how steep the curve is on Saturday 21st when I first published my predictions.
I have assumed that Australia will be as successful as Korea in clamping down on the factors that spread the virus. This still means we will have 3000 cases in early April.
The actual numbers are published below.




In our next post we will explore the brave new world of epigenetics , what we know of how this virus works, and how better to combat it.


David and Terry