Who is at risk?

From Michele Belot:

The key role of essential workers in stopping the spread of the virus

While we are all becoming accustomed with recommendations to washing our hands regularly and to practicing social distancing, there is a concern that the virus can still spread widely through a minority of people who are in contact with a large number of members of the public and/or who handle goods that are passed on to others. Even if most of us comply with social distancing measures, the virus can continue to spread easily through a minority of people.

O*net, a US-based platform classifying professional occupations has developed a measure of the degree of exposure to diseases and infections. Of course, most of these professions are in the medical sector, where protective practices are already common.

There are however several other professions outside the medical sector that are likely to remain considered essential throughout the pandemic but where protective practices are less common and rigorous. Examples include:

  • Retail salespersons, concierges, restaurant staff, and cashiers.
  • Couriers and messengers
  • Home health aides
  • Workers involved in the preparation of deliveries of goods
  • Bank and post office receptionists
  • Plumbers, handymen
  • Police

It is imperative that those in these professions follow the WHO and professional guidelines, including wearing a protective mask, washing hands regularly, and between every interaction with members of the public. Wearing gloves without disinfecting them between interactions may protect the worker but will contribute to spread the virus to members of the public.

Cheap and effective interventions

From Jan Kulveit: important, functional and cheap interventions.

  • Compulsory wearing of masks: Unfortunately the debate about masks was led completely astray by discussion about whether they are effective as protection of the wearer, and by the attempts of many governments to prevent hoarding by spreading the idea that masks are not effective as personal protection. However, the main benefit of everyone wearing masks is completely different: the mask limits the transmission from infected individuals. What’s crucial this works even in the pre-symptomatic period, and for asymptomatic individuals. So the wearer mainly provides a public good. Additional benefits are in encouraging behavioral changes. Masks remind everyone of the need for distancing. They are also great for signalling: people who are not taking the situation seriously don’t wear masks, or don’t wear them properly, and make it easy for everyone avoid close proximity with them. For how to get 10M people wear a mask in 2-3 days by promoting DIY efforts read here.
  • Scalable contact tracing solution based on use of telecommunications data: Here is how it works. Anyone infected is interviewed by an operator to track their past contacts. The operator is using our Memory Map, which includes telco data, banking data, phone location history and other sources to help the patient remember their whereabouts and contacts. All with user’s consent and within GDPR. New suspected cases are then invited by SMS to be tested. We are already extending this further to more data sources, mobile apps etc. The system was launched here in Czechia in one week including the necessary emergency legislation and the setup of the call centre. It is packaged and can be rolled out to other countries.

Both of these interventions are very cheap and effective. They have been effectively used in several Asian countries. Outside of Asia the only place implementing them I’m aware of is Czechia and Israel, and possibly Slovakia.

A user guide of Covid-19

Andrea Galeotti and Paolo Surico and I felt the need to learn some tools to process this information and to understand and rationalise current health and economic policies. We created a narrative to highlight different trade-offs which are part of: a) every health policy that attempts to flatten the contagion curve of Covid-19, and b) every economic policy that attempts to flatten the ‘recession curve’ caused by Covid-19. We have developed, to share with you, A user guide of Covid-19. It consists of a short introduction and four mini-lectures (each with slides and a video):

• A user guide of Covid-19: introduction. [Video

• A user guide of Covid-19: part I: gathering facts. [VideoSlides

Reporting the facts that are available to us all, in a way that is concise, precise and accessible to a large audience.

• A user guide of Covid-19: part II: epidemiology for dummies. [VideoSlides]

Explaining, in simple but precise terms, the epidemiology models that are guiding governmental health policies. Discussing trade-offs in health policies that implement different degrees of social distancing.

• A user guide of Covid-19: part III: economics for dummies. [VideoSlides]

Explaining, in simple but precise terms, the economic mechanisms behind the new economic crisis due to Covid-19.

• A user guide of Covid-19: part IV: policy options. [VideoSlides]

Discussing health and economic policy options in view of the current situation.

A file containing a comprehensive set of teaching slides is here: Lecture of Covid-19. This is a rapidly evolving situation, so we are updating the lecture slides (almost) daily.