MIT warns of coronavirus ‘explosion’ if lockdowns eased too soon – a day after Trump said some states can reopen – The Sun

A NEW model predicts the US could see a surge in coronavirus cases if state lockdowns are eased too soon despite Donald Trump's plans to reopen some states.

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) released a model on Thursday that depicts the spread of the killer virus using data from China, Italy, South Korea and the US.

Any immediate or near-term relaxation of mitigation measures already in place nationwide would lead to an "exponential explosion" in coronavirus cases, the authors say.

"This is a really crucial moment of time. If we relax quarantine measures, it could lead to disaster," said MIT Professor George Barbastathis.

The harrowing research was published as:

  • Trump said 29 states are ready to ease coronavirus restrictions, with some opening as early as Friday
  • The president admitted that the exact reopening date will be at governors' discretions
  • The FDA chief said the US is "very close to its coronavirus peak"
  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his state will remain on lockdown until May 15

Trump revealed his three-phase Opening Up America Plan Thursday evening at a White House coronavirus briefing, saying that states that are in "great shape" could be able to go "literally tomorrow."

He admitted governors have the final say on whether their state reopens, a complete reversal from his claim of "total authority" over ending lockdowns.

The MIT model uses an algorithm to combine data on the disease's spread with a neural network to predict when infections will decrease in each country.

It is the first based purely on coronavirus data.

Most models predict the spread of disease by looking at people who are susceptible, exposed, infected and recovered.

However, MIT's framework includes the number of infected people still in quarantine and unable to transmit the virus to others.

This allows researchers to create a more accurate way to predict the future impact of the disease if lockdown restrictions are ended early.

In places like South Korea where the government immediately implemented strong quarantine measures, the virus was contained more quickly, researchers found.

But in places where government response was slower, such as Italy and the US, the "effective reproduction number" of COVID-19was higher than one, meaning that the virus has continued to spread rapidly.

"Our model shows that quarantine restrictions are successfully getting the effective reproduction number from larger than one to smaller than one," said Barbastathis.

"That corresponds to the point where we can flatten the curve and start seeing fewer infections."

MIT researchers predict coronavirus infections will plateau in the US and Italy next week – but they caution that this isn't a reason to relax lockdown measures already enacted.

Barbastathis cited Singapore's second wave explosion of coronavirus cases as a cautionary tale.

"If the US were to follow the same policy of relaxing quarantine measures too soon, we have predicted that the consequences would be far more catastrophic," he added.

At least 34,700 people in the US have died from the killer virus while more than 679,700 have been infected.

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