What is R and does it matter?




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Mathematicians and public-health experts watched through their fingers in May as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled a series of charts to explain how the government would guide Britain out of coronavirus lockdown. Perhaps most prominent was a colourful dial with a needle hovering near a single digit: 1.

The dial indicated R, a now-totemic figure in the COVID-19 pandemic. The nation, said Johnson, would set a COVID-19 alert level, to be “primarily determined” by the number of coronavirus cases, and by R, the reproduction number.

To infectious-disease experts, Johnson’s focus on the reproduction number as a guiding light for policy was worryingly myopic. They worry about placing too much weight on R, the average number of people each person with a disease goes on to infect.

In this pandemic, R has leapt from the pages of academic journals into regular discussions by politicians and newspapers, framed as a number that will shape everyone’s lives. As Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, explained in a widely viewed video this April, an R above one means an outbreak is growing, and below one means that it is shrinking. In many countries, it is publicly reported every week. In June, epidemiologists at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts, announced a website where anyone can look up the value for any country — and for many smaller regions — in the world.

But fascination might have turned into unhealthy political and media fixation, say disease experts. R is an imprecise estimate that rests on assumptions, says Jeremy Rossman, a virologist at the University of Kent, UK. It doesn’t capture the current status of an epidemic and can spike up and down when case numbers are low. It is also an average for a population and therefore can hide local variation. Too much attention to it could obscure the importance of other measures, such as trends in numbers of new infections, deaths and hospital admissions, and cohort surveys to see how many people in a population currently have the disease, or have already had it

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Love’s victory

Turn back, live again, he  asked of me
Do not wander in this darkness anymore
One slip,one move might give death victory

We are each connected to that tree
The sunlit top, the roots hid in earth’s floor
Come back, live again, he asked of me

While we live, we’ll live with dignity
Not scrabbling for the gold in blood and gore
One more lie will give sin victory

The kindness of the golden light was clear
And left an image in my mind’s deep core
Come back, live your life, he then soothed me

Do not wonder now why you are here
We’re here to live and living shall restore
What our suffering self has found so dear

I had never seen the Light before
Only Christ the Tyger with his roar
Come back, live through pain, he asked of me
One right step will give love victory

Evolution, accident, who cares?

The Enlightment   brought  error and despair
Science can’t give  a meaning to our lives
In two World Wars we seem to make that clear

Satan looked out  puzzled from his  lair
The evil done by men was a surprise
The Enlightment   brought  error and despair

The fabric of the world  is ripped and torn
The war between the wealthy never dies
In two World Wars we seem to make that clear

Evolution, accident, who cares
With the  pill ,no woman  can deny
The Enlightment   brought  error and despair

Now we shop while wearing our nightmares
Haunted faces lifted  with no pride
In two World Wars we seem to  have that clear

Jesus in his wooden tower sighs
Almost human, he has turned away
The Enlightment   brought  error and despair
After two World Wars what else is clear?