This item is available under a Creative Commons License for non-commercial use only
Health policy and services, Public and environmental health, Epidemiology
In the current COVID-19 pandemic, much focus is put on ‘flattening the curve’. This ‘curve’ refers to the cases versus time graph, which shows the rise of a disease to its peak before descending. The aim in a pandemic is to flatten this curve by reducing the peak and spreading out the timeline. However, the models used to predict this curve are often not clearly outlined, no model parameters are given, and models are not tested against real data. This lack of detail makes it difficult to recreate the curve from these models. What is much needed is a simple tool for approximating the curve to allow ideas to be tested and comparisons made.
This work presents a simple curve drawing tool which can be used by anyone. This tool allows the user to approximate and draw the curve and allows testing of assumptions, trajectories and the wildly varying figures reported in the media. The mathematics behind this tool is clearly outlined here but understanding of this is not required. The tool itself is provided online as a downloadable MS Excel workbook with some sample cases shown. Throughout this work, the parameters used are specified so that all results can be easily reproduced.
Although not intended as a prediction tool it has achieved less than 1% error in short-term forward prediction. It also shows a very significant improvement on the exponential approximations found throughout media reporting. As a comparison tool, it highlights obvious differences between COVID-19 and other diseases, such as influenza, and between countries at different stages of the virus (China, Italy and the UK are used here for demonstration purposes).
This drawing tool allows for quick approximation of the curve and creates meaningful comparisons and understandable visualisations for COVID-19 and other pandemics.