Much media and societal attention is today focused on how to best control the spread of Covid-19. Every day brings us new data, and policymakers are implementing different strategies in different countries to manage the impact of Covid-19. To respond to the first wave of infection, several countries, including the UK, opted for isolation/lockdown initiatives, with different degrees of rigour. Data showed that these initiatives have yield the expected results in terms of containing the rapid trajectory of the virus. When this manuscript was first prepared, the affected societies were wondering when the isolation/lockdown initiatives should be lifted. While detailed epidemiologic, economic as well as social studies would be required to answer this question completely, we employ here a simple engineering model. Albeit simple, the model is capable of reproducing the main features of the data reported in the literature concerning the Covid-19 trajectory in different countries, including the increase in cases in countries following the initially successful isolation/lockdown initiatives. Keeping in mind the simplicity of the model, we attempt to draw some conclusions, which seem to suggest that a decrease in the number of infected individuals after the initiation of isolation/lockdown initiatives does not necessarily guarantee that the virus trajectory is under control. Within the limit of this model, it would appear that rigid isolation/lockdown initiatives for the medium term would lead to achieving the desired control over the spread of the virus. This observation seems consistent with the past summer months, during which the Covid-19 trajectory seemed to be almost under control across most European countries. However, recent data show that the virus trajectory is again on the rise. The latter is also consistent with the simple model proposed here. Because the optimal solution will achieve control over the spread of the virus while minimising negative societal impacts due to isolation/lockdown, which include but are not limited to economic and mental health aspects, the engineering model presented here is not sufficient to provide the desired answer. However, the model seems to suggest that to keep the Covid-19 trajectory under control, a series of short-to-medium term isolation measures should be put in place until one or more of the following scenarios is achieved: a cure has been developed and has become accessible to the population at large; a vaccine has been developed, tested, and distributed to large portions of the population; a sufficiently large portion of the population has developed resistance to the Covid-19 virus; or the virus itself has become less aggressive. It is somewhat remarkable that an engineering model, despite all its approximations, provides suggestions consistent with advanced epidemiologic models developed by several experts in the field.
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UCL Open: Environment Preprint
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