Report about Prof. Philip Thomas
Junior Warden Philip Thomas has devised a way of measuring Covid-19's basic reproduction number, the average number of people in a susceptible population infected by a single person, across the UK on a daily basis.
The new measurement system can provide decision makers with timely feedback and so gives them the freedom for the first time to control the basic reproduction number to a set point above 1.0. The disease would then spread at a controlled rate, avoiding bed shortages in NHS hospitals and allowing the UK's population immunity to build up. The people of the UK would then have a safeguard against major new outbreaks in the future.
The method uses the headline number of daily new cases published by the government on its Coronavirus Dashboard at 4 pm each day. The measurement system has been corroborated against spot figures calculated from weekly data given by the Office of National Statistics Coronavirus Infection Survey Pilot.
Philip Thomas, who is Professor of Risk Management at the University of Bristol, has shown that the UK's basic reproduction number has been stable for the past three weeks at 1.6. This is well below the unrestricted value of 3 observed before the first lockdown and shows that people have made significant changes to the way they work and socialise.
Professor Thomas said:
"Some people believe the government has only two choices: either open up fully, 'let the virus rip', and achieve herd immunity as quickly as possible or else try to hold it off until a vaccine or treatment becomes available.
But this study has shown that the government need not choose between these two extreme options.
There is a third way.
The basic reproduction number can be controlled to a setpoint that is above 1.0 but much less than it would be if the nation returned to its pre-coronavirus habits.
The new measurement system could be a game-changer if adopted."
The paper, 'Measuring and controlling the Covid-19 pandemic through the winter', has been submitted to Nanotechnology Perceptions.
Philip Thomas holds the chair in risk management at the University of Bristol. He is a control engineer who worked for many years in that role in the chemical and nuclear industries. He was awarded several prizes for his work by the Institute of Measurement and Control and by the Worshipful Company of Scientific Instrument Makers. He served as President of the Institute of Measurement and Control in 2001. He will become Junior Warden of the Worshipful Company of Scientific Instrument Makers at the end of October.
He has published over 130 papers on control, instrumentation, nuclear decommissioning, risk assessment, economics and law. His book, Simulation of Industrial Processes for Control Engineers, was published in 1999.