The math is simple and expected. The number of people infected with COVID-19 will increase exponentially.
This means that while it may take 2 weeks for 100 people to be infected, hitting the next hundred will be just a matter of days.
Take Malaysia for instance: our first recorded case of COVID-19 was on 24 January. It took 43 days from then until 8 March 2020 for us to have 99 confirmed cases.
It took just another 5 days to reach 200 confirmed cases. And in less than 2 days, that number has more than doubled.
This is not unexpected. All contagious diseases increase exponentially until they hit a ceiling: either a vaccine stops the infection, or there is simply no one left to infect.
The rate of spread for COVID-19 is at 2.5, which means each infected person on average spreads it to another 2.5 people.
Assuming the conservative number of 2 infected people from one person, the number of infected people doubles each generation. This compounding effect is known as exponential growth.
That’s why the number of infected cases have a slow gradual build and then a very fast spike.
This model assumes that the contagion will be able to spread unhindered.
However, when the community actively uses preventive measures such as social distancing, then the number of infected people are greatly reduced.
Some people are also considered “Super-spreaders” because they meet a lot of different people and they increase the risk of infection for many others, such as Case 26 in Malaysia.
As the number of confirmed cases rise, all sorts of complications can arise as well. Healthcare institutions can get overwhelmed, the virus could mutate, or whole industries can simply grind to a halt.
It’s why social distancing has been urged since we first learned about the novel coronavirus.
Since the recent spike in confirmed cases, most organizations have cancelled or postponed their events and banned any gathering of more than 250 people.
With active social distancing such as working from home, no longer will you share breathing air with friends, colleagues, strangers on public transportation, or people who just happen to be at the same restaurant as you at the same time.
In a day, you may only come into contact with your family members, which drastically reduces your risk of getting infected or infecting others.
So do your part and stay home. (Though we’re sure you’re not complaining!)
Anne is an advocate of sustainable living and the circular economy, and has managed to mum-nag the team into using reusable containers to tapau food. She is also a proud parent of 4 cats and 1 rabbit.