Coronavirus
Medical personnel wheel a coronavirus patient into a Mexico City hospital. Medical personnel wheel a coronavirus patient into a Mexico City hospital.

New model shows highest number of virus cases will come sooner than expected

UNAM scientists' models show most new infections will occur this week and next

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The coronavirus pandemic is currently at its peak in Mexico, according to a group of scientists at the National Autonomous University (UNAM) who used two epidemiological models to predict the development of the outbreak.

The SIR model – which considers the number of people susceptible to infection, the number of people already infected and the number of people who have recovered from Covid-19 – shows that the highest number of new coronavirus infections in Mexico will occur this week and next.

The SEIR model – which also considers the number of people believed to have been exposed to a contagious disease but who are not yet showing symptoms – shows the same.

The scientists used data from the federal government for both models.

“The SEIR model and the SIR model, which are different, are showing the same pattern,” said Víctor Velasco Herrera, a researcher at the UNAM Institute of Geophysics and member of the group of scientists who undertook the mathematical modeling.

“Both models predict that the highest peak of daily cases … will be reached in the third and fourth weeks of April,” he said.

Velasco added that, “given the dynamic of the pandemic,” the number of people requiring hospitalization for Covid-19 will increase and hospitals could be saturated in the coming weeks. According to the scientists’ modeling, there will be around 20,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases in Mexico at the end of May, a figure less than double the current number of confirmed cases.

The predictions of the UNAM scientists differ from those of federal health authorities who say that the peak of the pandemic will be in the first two weeks of May.

Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell said last week that the peak of transmission will be between May 8 and 10 and that the greatest pressure on the health system will come about two weeks later.

Although the UNAM scientists believe the pandemic is currently peaking, the government only declared the commencement of phase three of the outbreak – the most critical stage – on Tuesday.

In the three days since the declaration, 2,861 confirmed cases of Covid-19 were added to Mexico’s official tally, a figure that accounts for 25% of the total of 11,633.

The Health Ministry estimates that there are around eight undetected Covid-19 cases for each confirmed one, meaning that more than 100,000 people in Mexico may have been infected.

The UNAM scientists believe, however, that warm weather and sunlight have played a role in limiting the coronavirus spread in Mexico, although there is no international consensus that that is the case.

“My colleagues and I have a hypothesis: ultraviolet radiation has prevented Covid-19 from being merciless in Mexico because it’s a natural antiviral,” Velasco said.

The scientists predict that there will be a second wave of infections in the second half of 2020 and that if the government doesn’t develop a long-term strategy to limit the coronavirus spread, the situation in Mexico could worsen and become as bad as countries such as Italy, which has recorded more than 25,000 deaths.

“In the second half of the year, the rains will arrive first and then cold days. … They will create favorable conditions for this virus to move through the entire country again,” Velasco said.

“In addition, there won’t be the same quantity of ultraviolet radiation. Using artificial intelligence, we’ve made a prediction that … at the end of July, a second wave of Covid-19 will begin.”

The researcher said that the vast majority of epidemiological predictions he and his colleagues have made have proven to be accurate, adding that they would prefer to be proven wrong than to be accused of failing to see that a second wave of coronavirus infections would afflict Mexico.

Source: El Universal (sp)

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