Professor Ģirts Briģis: There is Risk of Social Distancing Fatigue
‘Although limiting the spread of COVID-19 is possible, citizens growing tired of social distancing measures could pose a danger,’ says Prof. Ģirts Briģis, the head of the Department of Public Health and Epidemiology at Rīga Stradiņš University (RSU) in an interview with the LETA news agency on 27 April.
Prof. Briģis told the news agency that the virus’ reproduction ratio needs to be calculated to help combat COVID-19. This number shows how many new infection cases one sick person can cause. At the same time, the professor says, this mathematical method has its drawbacks and it is unknown how precise the data that has been obtained about the spread of the disease is.
He explained that calculations are very complicated. By calculating the figure and determining whether it is higher, or lower than 1 you can conclude whether the epidemic is spreading, or contained. ‘My colleagues at the RSU Statistical Laboratory could make these calculations, but the initiative must come from the Ministry of Health.’
Prof. Briģis reminds us that there are only two ways in which to reduce the spread of the disease: developing "herd immunity", an approach that is currently out of the question, since at least 60% of the population would have to get infected in order for this to develop, alternately efficiently implementing social distancing measures and seeing results.
‘This means that social distancing policies must continue. People are, however, getting bored of social distancing. This is dangerous, because if social distancing measures are loosened people could become careless,’ the professor comments.
The Head of RSU Department of Public Health and Epidemiology believes that
decisions on possibly mitigating these measures have to be made politically, since the economy and the social sector need to be taken into account. Mitigating the limitations could also result in spreading the disease in which case mortality would increase as well. This is what happened historically in the case of the so-called Spanish flu in the US.