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Saturday 19 June 2021

Recommended Better sooner than later

Better sooner than later

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Unfortunately, the data does not seem to be equivocal: starting from February 20, the slow decline in the number of hospitalized patients has given way to a rise which, in the space of eight days, has led their number to grow from 19.788 to 20.869, about 1.000 more in a week.

I have no particular qualifications to write about the subject except that of being an Italian citizen (and taxpayer) and having a professional training and almost forty years of practice in the analysis of statistical data. For various reasons I consider the "number of hospitalized" the most reliable indicator to get an idea of ​​both the progress of the pandemic (albeit with a delay of about a week) and its "criticality" (the pressure on hospitals) .

As mentioned, this variable had a slightly but steadily decreasing trend starting from 12 January (26.348) until 20 February (19.788) and then changed dynamics. During this phase, the tactic of "flexible response" was followed - developed by the CTS and the Ministry of Health in the last phase of the Conte government - substantially consisting in the definition of scalable levels of restrictions on mobility and social relations to be applied on a regional basis depending on the trend of a series of variables (the "color" of the regions). What never convinced me of this mode of action, which is reasonable in itself to "keep the situation under control", was its application to a context in which the starting values ​​were too high both from the point of view of diffusion contagion (and therefore the possibility of effectively managing test and tracking practices) and that of hospital pressure. This determined a fragility of the system in the face of a potential resurgence of the spread of the virus of any origin (for example the so-called "variants").

The data tell us that in the last week (22-28 February) 2,074 million swabs (between antigenic and molecular) were carried out on a total of 678.881 cases, identifying 116.124 new positives, equal to 17,1% of the cases tested: one a percentage well above that considered appropriate to carry out effective "tracking" policies. It is worth noting that in the previous week (15-21 February) the positive cases detected were decidedly less both in absolute terms (87.367) and in terms of incidence on the 629.977 cases tested equal to 13,9%.

That the situation is worsening therefore seems unfortunately quite evident. For the moment, the dynamics are contained, but experience should have taught us that the further we go, the more the growth dynamics are accentuated and the more difficult it is to remedy them.

The new government has not changed the political head of health nor, at least for the moment, has intervened to modify the technical-scientific structure of reference which seems oriented to re-propose the tactic of the flexible response with some exacerbations. Most of the public discussions on individual sectoral restrictive measures appear frankly contradictory and instrumental (with supporters of the reopening of cinemas indignant at requests for restaurant reopening and vice versa…).

I believe that the real question is the same as two months ago, but that - given the latest developments - is posed in more dramatic and urgent terms, namely the objective evaluation of the proposal of some epidemiologists (and others) to proceed with a lock generalized, scheduled and temporally limited down (we are talking about a couple of weeks), which is the only tool we currently have to try to prevent the pressure on the test, tracking and treatment systems from going out of control, determining the need, in a few weeks, of even more drastic and prolonged interventions.

The economic and social impacts of such a choice are high, but the economic and social impacts of not making it risk being much more dramatic.

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