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The 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak has spread rapidly around the world at an alarming rate, creating significant public fears and concerns. In response to the growing number of new cases, many countries have put lockdown measures in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus. However, almost every individual, community, business and economy has been affected by lockdowns – an impact on society that cannot be ignored.

The health and well-being of the population will be affected if the community is kept open, but the lockdown strategy also has economic and financial implications. Each strategy in itself increases the overall costs for society. Can both losing strategies be combined in such a way that a profit is achieved? Researchers at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) wanted to answer this question in a recent article published in Advanced Science.

The team, led by Assistant Professor Kang Hao Cheong of the SUTD, is trying to answer this question by modeling the population using the Parrondo Paradox in order to lower the cost of the epidemic through a conversion strategy. The model takes into account the health and well-being of the population as well as the economic impact and describes the interaction and flow between the different population compartments during the COVID-19 epidemic.

The researchers were inspired by a phenomenon called Parrondo’s Paradox. The paradox is that it is possible to switch between two losing strategies and still win. Their results represent one of the first studies to look at the lockdown exit strategy. It is also one of the first to associate Parrondo’s paradox with epidemiology.

This study shows that keeping the community open leads to a large number of people infected and a large increase in deaths over time, so naturally the “cost” increases. At the same time, a lockdown strategy reduces the possibility of infection but has a detrimental effect on socio-economic costs.

“This means that any strategy during an epidemic cannot lead to a long-term decrease in ‘costs’. Such increasing ‘costs’ allow us to classify them as loss strategies,” said Tao Wen, a research student at SUTD and a co-author of the study .

“Switching between losing strategies according to any of the suggested alternative strategies reduces the ‘cost’ per day. This in itself is a winning strategy for controlling the loss caused by COVID-19,” he added.

This is a manifestation of the Parrondo game theory paradox: two losing strategies can be combined into one outcome that wins.

The researchers introduced three different switching rules. These are the time-based, result-based and random switching schemes. Each switching rule has its own strengths and can be applied to a large number of real scenarios.

“Such novel strategies can be implemented to contain the spread of COVID-19 or future epidemics and to alleviate suffering, maintain and promote the health and well-being of the population,” noted Assistant Professor Kang Hao Cheong, the lead researcher for this study by SUTD.

“COVID-19 is a complex of diseases and not a cause. The ultimate pathogen is not an isolated virus, but a virus in its complexity with certain social factors – the four tabs: a) overpopulation, b) globalization, c) hyperconnectivity and d) extreme centralization and increasing fragility of supply chains, “warned Assistant Professor Cheong.

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More information:
Kang Hao Cheong et al., Alleviating the Cost of an Epidemic Through Parrondo’s Paradox: A COVID-19 Case Study, Advanced Science (2020). DOI: 10.1002 / advs.202002324 Provided by the Singapore University of Technology and Design

Quote: Relief from COVID-19 through Parrondo’s Paradox (2020, October 22), accessed on October 22, 2020 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2020-10-relieving-covid-parrondo-paradox.html

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