MIT Model Says Relaxing Coronavirus Restrictions Will Lead To ‘Exponential Explosion’ In New Infections

A person walks on the Brooklyn Bridge wearing a face mask.
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A new machine learning model of the spread of coronavirus developed by MIT predicts that an immediate relaxation of quarantine measures will lead to an “exponential explosion” of new infections.

As Tech Crunch reported, researchers at the university developed a model on the spread of coronavirus infections using a combination of publicly available data along with existing epidemiological equations about outbreaks and what the report called “neural network-based inference.” The model had been tuned back to use data from January to early March and correctly predicted the spread of coronavirus up until April 1, and looking forward, it has a prediction of new rapid spread if restrictions are pared back.

The report noted that the model “indicates that any immediate or near-term relaxation or reversal of quarantine measures currently in place would lead to an ‘exponential explosion’ in the number of infections.” The model aimed to look at just the spread of the novel coronavirus, while other models have used the spread of similar respiratory diseases like SARS and MERS, the report noted.

Tech Crunch noted that the model has some good news for the immediate future, but the potential for a rapid upswing if measures are removed.

“MIT’s model shows that the current infection plateau for COVID-19 in the U.S. and Italy will both take place sometime in the next week or so, which matches existing predictions available. That sounds like promising news, and it is in terms of the number of infected patients, and the impact on the healthcare system, but it absolutely should not be interpreted as meaning that this is when it’s okay to start relaxing the measures in place.”

Other public health experts have warned that social distancing measures may need to be in place for many months, likely until a vaccine for the coronavirus is created.

As The Inquisitr reported this week, some experts have suggested that these measures will need to remain in place for all of the next two years in order to avoid a new surge in infections.

As Bloomberg reported, a new Harvard University study published in the journal Science found that lifting social distancing guidelines during that time would risk a sharp increase in cases of the virus.

In the U.S., state and federal leaders have worked on ways to gradually reopen state economies, allowing more businesses that had been ordered to close to reopen and allowing smaller gatherings of people, provided they take proper precautions against spreading the virus.