January 2021 Editorial – EPN Consulting Newsletter


When long time ago I was an Electronic Engineering student at the Politecnico di Torino university I remember that all of our professors insisted on the importance of numbers and the strict precision with which we should have handled them. As a matter of fact, electronic circuits, digital communications, civil infrastructures, for instance, they work well when the design numbers are correct and well implemented.

In recent times, it seems that numbers are relative entities that are differently “interpreted” according to who talks about them. Clear examples of this upsetting behaviour have been showed during this pandemic whose management has a lot to do with numbers. We are all bombarded with statistics about the number of infected, (sadly) deceased and healed people but, in particular for the first number, the basic rule of calculation is not always objective as the number of PCR tests carried out changes continuously making difficult to understand trends. Besides, some countries include PCR and antigenic tests as one reference number, thus percentage of individuals considered positive to the virus is altered, especially when compared with other countries.

The same applies to quarantine, recently mandatory for people visiting the UK that should stay 10 days locked down in a hotel and pay themselves for the related accommodation expenses. Several countries in Europe consider the length of quarantine differently as this ranges from 7 to 10 until 14 days. But, aren’t we all human beings with the same body functions? Why is it safe to allow someone to circulate after 7 days in one country while in another country the same individual would be considered still infected? There are many other examples of inconsistency: a few countries request now a negative PCR test to be ready for inspection when entering their territory, however for some of them the test should have been performed 48hrs before travelling while for some others 72hrs in advance. What does it change in those 24 hours of difference?

In Italy a currently big discussion is about the capacity of public transport to ensure safe travelling. Provided that all passengers must wear a face mask, the safe capacity identified is 50% of the total vehicle/carriage space availability. While it is relatively easy to measure this parameter in underground services as the access to platforms is controlled and can be suspended when the number of passengers reaches the top threshold, it is more complicated (nearly impossible?) counting the number of passengers on buses. Besides, as the capacity limit was introduced to ensure a safe social distance, what about a child and an obese person going on the bus: are they considered 0.5 person and 1.5 person respectively in the overall calculation of their space occupancy in the bus?

A few days ago the EU said that some common rules should be introduced in the 27 Member States to make the situation clearer, applicable and controllable, but I see this task difficult to implement. As a matter of fact, within each country  regions belong to several categories, and this contributes to make the situation even more complicated. For months we have been receiving a lot of confusing and contradictory information: numbers are unfortunately not treated properly as they should be.

Stefano Mainero
EPN Consulting Founder & CEO