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Flattening the curve ... what does it mean?

Published:Thursday | April 2, 2020 | 12:22 AM

It is the new buzz phrase being used by politicians and medical professionals alike.

The idea of slowing a virus’ spread so that fewer people need to seek treatment at any given time is known as ‘flattening the curve’.

The ‘curve’ medics and politicians are talking about refers to the projected number of persons who could contract COVID-19 over a given period based on different scenarios.

“WHO continues to call on all countries to implement a comprehensive approach, with the aim of slowing down transmission and flattening the curve,” Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said yesterday during a World Health Organization media conference.

The curve may take different shapes, depending on the virus’ infection rate.

A steep curve is one in which the virus spreads exponentially and the total number of cases catapults to its peak within a short period.

Such a scenario is likely to overwhelm hospitals and other medical facilities treating the disease.

With new patients increasingly being forced to go without ICU beds, more and more hospitals may run out of basic supplies they need to respond to the outbreak.

Infection curves with a steep rise also have a steep fall, experts have said.

They argue that after the virus infects a majority or everyone who can be infected, case numbers begin to drop exponentially, too.

A flatter curve projects the same number of people ultimately getting infected, but there is a gradual uptick in the number of cases over a longer period.

A slower infection rate means a less-stressed healthcare system, fewer hospital visits on any given day, and fewer sick people being turned away.