Lifestyle

Students build calculator that shows how many lives we can save by isolating

It’s an odd time, and many of us right now feel powerless in the wake of COVID-19’s spread.

Although many have highlighted how this pandemic has brought out something of a wartime spirit, the best thing we can do to fight this isn’t to come together – it’s to stay at home.

While that may feel strange, it’s important to note just how much of an impact self-isolation and social distancing can have in terms of flattening the curve of the virus and keeping our NHS ticking over.

PhD students Anna Szczepanek and Dominik Czernia have built a calculator that shows exactly how many lives we can personally save by staying at home, which they hope will convince people just how much power is in their hands so they make that step.

The pair – with Anna doing a PhD in Mathematics from the Jagiellonian University, Poland and Dominik doing his Physics PhD in Molecular Magnetism from the Institute of Nuclear Physics, Poland – are both contributors to a community of researchers and scientists called the Omni Calculator Project, where they make free Math and Physics resources for other young or senior students.

This time, though, they’ve put their expertise to good use for the general public, in order to show us just how massive the consequences of our actions can be.

Anna said: ‘Given the seriousness of the crisis, it’s always a huge responsibility to NOT do something that spreads more panic around people. I’m petrified to read scary news each day about the worsening situation.

‘It was important for me and Dominik to send a ray of hope to people while explaining to them the benefits of following basic protocol. We used our backgrounds to our advantage and helped people find a motivation to stay at home – how to save themselves and hundreds around them.’

When you’re on the calculator, you can change the variables based on how quickly the government in your country introduced lockdown measures, as well as the amount of distancing or isolation you’re personally doing.

From there, you can see the difference in coronavirus cases compared to if you’d not isolated at all.

For example, in the case of 100% isolation, you can save 399 infections and 14 lives.

The calculator is based on scientific research from the Centre for the Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases.

Dominik and Anna used the same seven variables they included in their research, but made things more user-friendly and understandable. This way, the calculator can have an impact on the average person and the numbers can really hit home.

So far, they say they’ve seen a large number of people using the calculator, and it was also shared on Twitter by famous epidemiologist Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding.

‘While understanding the macro-levels of social distancing is important, our goal was to focus on how people can know their individual impact on the Coronavirus outbreak through social distancing,’ says Anna.

‘This is exactly how we hope people use this calculator, not just for themselves but to share it with friends and family, especially those who don’t find social distancing a rational approach to stopping the spread.’