Coronavirus: more information needed to better plan our future

    Valletta empty due to coronavirus
    Miguela Xuereb

    We have now entered the fifth week of the Coronavirus crisis. As I write this article, which is fruit of a conversation with the Italian statistician, Luca Splendore di Gennaro, the known positive cases have gone up to 213. The people who have been cured after all this time are only 2. How does this rate compare with Italy, Spain, UK, after 5 weeks from the first known case?

    Unfortunately, I believe that not enough medical information has been released for statisticians to be able to build proper and more accurate projections for the future.

    Without data on COVID-19 progression till now, we cannot possibly understand the exact rate at which the pandemic is progressing. All the models till now have been based on insufficient data. We therefore need to organize an extensive survey on the spread of COVID-19 in Malta.

    Basically, the cases of COVID-19 should be tested by conducting a scientific random sample representative of the entire population. This scientifically chosen sample would be enough to provide the necessary information in order for experts in the field to fully understand the evolution of the situation.

    Every person in the sample would be swabbed for COVID-19 traces. Ideally, his/her relatives would also be swabbed.

    A questionnaire should also accompany this random COVID-19 test survey. Questions on personal health conditions, social connections, traveling and social habits in the last weeks could be asked to the people. Ideally, this exercise should be repeated periodically until a stable situation is reached.

    This means that all relevant information concerning the positive testing persons should be collected. We need to build a data base with the social network and the social behaviour of people having tested positive in the last weeks.

    Basically, we have to compile records of the travelling history, health conditions, meals consumed, sexual activity, etc. of the persons concerned.

    With all these details in hand, qualified statisticians would be in a position to come up with reasonable estimates for the near future.

    Once in possession of the proper data the government can put into practice and/or fine tune emergency health and economic policies that can be justified economically as well as in terms of public health.

     

    Arnold Cassola is former Secretary General of the European Green Party and former Italian MP