Most countries and models that have attempted to control COVID-19 situation have had one ultimate goal; trying to bring the number of infections below the capacity of the existing health care system, I do believe this is may not be the best approach at the moment, our approach now should be redirecting all our resources and efforts to bring the weak existing healthcare systems to a capacity high enough to contain our patients who need hospitalization.
Unfortunately, we may now be at a stage of exhausted resources that may not allow us the luxury of doing both approaches, and we should only have one indicator to focus on with only one target: keep the fatalities as low as reasonably practicable, or set “Zero Coronavirus Fatalities” as our ultimate goal, which is based on all recent numbers surprisingly achievable (please watch the video for more details).
The answer to the current situation is never to put people under a lockdown or as I like to call it “house arrest”, this just represents the easy way out for weak and unreliable governments trying to hide their inability to strengthen the shallow healthcare systems, which if done properly will not only control the fatalities of the current pandemic but will also help in the future as a solid investment.
Mass testing, contact tracing and isolation have proven to be quite challenging especially once the disease becomes community-based, with very few success stories around the world of countries with low population, rich resources, and countries that started their action quite early or a combination of these.
Such huge resources need to be redirected to the overhaul of health systems and their infrastructure and workforce qualitatively and quantitatively.
The more you lock people down, the more the number of people you have susceptible to the disease, and once you try to open up for sure cases will rise.
In the current situation, more cases may actually be good news because it means more people with some immunity that are not susceptible to infection, minimizing the reproductive number (R0) of Coronavirus till the vaccine arrives.
In fact, even the vaccine may not be the silver bullet, and this is for several reasons including but not limited to cost, the fact that we need around 50 to 60% of the population vaccinated during a limited duration of time, not everyone will accept to take the vaccine, etc.
Redirect your resources to strengthen the healthcare system components, open up your economy with precautions (masks, ventilation, hand washing, etc.) and keep the task force after one target: zero fatalities.
Dr. Wessam Atif is a Philippines-based medical doctor and a public health researcher. Dr. Atif focuses on qualitative research in sanitation, hygiene education and public policy to support governments and policymakers of developing countries to achieve better public health goals. He is studying for his MPH at the University of Manchester. Recently, Dr. Atif has worked with the World Health Organization as a technical consultant to develop risk-based hygiene and sanitation inspection systems in the Western Pacific Region. Find him on Linkedin.