Why lockdowns can halt the spread of COVID-19

covid masks panic

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Johnny Wood, Senior Writer, Formative Content


The UK, US, EU and many other countries are currently in some degree of “lockdown,” with restaurants and bars, shops, schools and gyms closed, and citizens required, or at least strongly encouraged, to stay home to avoid catching or spreading COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

Researchers are well on their way to discovering vaccines and treatments for the virus, but even in a best-case scenario, these are likely to be 12-18 months away.

 

Until then, extreme social distancing is pretty much the only intervention available to help individuals stay healthy, and to break the chain of transmission – giving more vulnerable populations a fighting chance of surviving this pandemic.

But how exactly does a lockdown work? And why is it important for even younger and healthier people, who face a lower risk of severe illness, to remain in their homes as much as possible?

The goal: R<1

The purpose of a lockdown, explains a new study from the Imperial College London COVID-19 Response Team, is to reduce reproduction – in other words, to reduce the number of people each confirmed case infects.

The goal is to keep reproduction, or “R,” below one (R<1) – with each case infecting fewer than one other person, on average.

The authors of the study say there are two routes to try to get there:

  • Mitigation, “slowing but not necessarily stopping epidemic spread – reducing peak healthcare demand while protecting those most at risk of severe disease from infection.” This is done by isolating suspected cases and their households, and social distancing the elderly and people at highest risk of serious illness.
  • Suppression, or basically, lockdown, which “aims to reverse epidemic growth, reducing case numbers to low levels” by social distancing the entire population “indefinitely” and closing schools and universities.

The study’s models show that, painful as lockdown may be for many of us, it works.

Without any lockdown or social distancing measures, we can expect peak mortality in approximately three months. In this scenario, 81% of the UK and US populations would be infected, with 510,000 dying in the UK and 2.2 million dying in the US.

Unmitigated epidemic scenarios for GB and the US
Projected COVID-19-related deaths in the UK and US without any interventions
Image: Imperial College London

In contrast, isolating confirmed and suspected cases and social distancing the elderly and vulnerable would “reduce peak critical care demand by two-thirds and halve the number of deaths.”

To get closer to the goal of R<1, they say, “a combination of case isolation, social distancing of the entire population and either household quarantine or school and university closure are required.”

The study finds this “intensive policy is predicted to result in a reduction in critical care requirements from a peak approximately three weeks after the interventions are introduced and a decline thereafter while the intervention policies remain in place.”

Mitigation strategy scenarios for GB showing critical care (ICU) bed requirements
The impact of various social distancing or lockdown measures on ICU bed requirements
Image: Imperial College London

While the word “indefinitely” isn’t one we want to hear, it’s possible long-term suppression could be the best way to reduce infections and deaths – at least until a vaccine is available.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about the coronavirus outbreak?

A new strain of Coronavirus, COVID 19, is spreading around the world, causing deaths and major disruption to the global economy.

Responding to this crisis requires global cooperation among governments, international organizations and the business community, which is at the centre of the World Economic Forum’s mission as the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation.

The Forum has created the COVID Action Platform, a global platform to convene the business community for collective action, protect people’s livelihoods and facilitate business continuity, and mobilize support for the COVID-19 response. The platform is created with the support of the World Health Organization and is open to all businesses and industry groups, as well as other stakeholders, aiming to integrate and inform joint action.

As an organization, the Forum has a track record of supporting efforts to contain epidemics. In 2017, at our Annual Meeting, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was launched – bringing together experts from government, business, health, academia and civil society to accelerate the development of vaccines. CEPI is currently supporting the race to develop a vaccine against this strand of the coronavirus.

So, have the lockdowns worked?

Starting 23 January 2020, the Chinese government locked down Hubei Province, including Wuhan, the city of 11 million where the outbreak started. They halted transportation in and out and barred tens of millions of people from working or going to school and closed all shops except those selling food or medicine. In some areas, residents were even forced to limit trips to the store, or order supplies for delivery.

This unprecedented lockdown of tens of millions of people was considered a “vast experiment” – but it may have worked. Following the lockdown, cases began to slow. On 19 March, China’s National Health Commission reported no new confirmed infections in Hubei.

Italy and Spain have been under similarly intense nationwide lockdowns, from 9 March and 15 March, respectively, with citizens required to stay in their homes except for work, food shopping or medical appointments.

In parts of Italy where lockdowns started earlier, however, we’re already seeing a “flattening of the curve”. Lodi, for example, locked down on 23 February, but Bergamo did not lock down until 8 March. Now, cases seem to be leveling off in Lodi.

COVID-19 cases in Bergamo and Lodi, Italy
Image: Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science, University of Oxford & Nuffield College, UK

This week, both Italy and Spain reported their largest daily increases in COVID-19-related deaths. But if the lockdown models, hypothetical and real, are correct, the peaks could be approaching.

Advertising

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Neelie Kroes at the European Young Innovators Forum: Unconvention 2014

Deeper reforms in Korea will ensure more inclusive and sustainable growth

Blockchain will make sure green pledges aren’t just greenwash: a new initiative by young leaders at the World Economic Forum

OECD household income up 0.7% in first quarter of 2018, outpacing GDP growth

Genocide threat for Myanmar’s Rohingya greater than ever, investigators warn Human Rights Council

France-Germany: Divided in Europe, USA united in…Iran

‘Uphold human dignity’, dismantle ‘specious notion of racial superiority’ urges UN chief

UNESCO food and culture forum dishes up fresh serving of SDGs

These are the 5 most exciting cycling projects in the world

EU Budgets: Europe hoping for Xmas gifts

From violence to dialogue: as land conflicts intensify, UN boosts efforts to resolve disputes through mediation

Eurobarometer survey: Majority of EU citizens positive about international trade

Digital Single Market: New EU rules for online subscription services

More than one million sexually transmitted infections occur every day: WHO

From diamonds to recycling: how blockchain can drive responsible and ethical businesses

High-technology manufacturing saves the EU industry

An Eastern Wind

4 key ways countries can finance their SDG ambitions

IMF: Sorry Greece it was a mistake of 11% of your GDP

France is about to start giving free breakfasts to disadvantaged schoolchildren

6th Edition of India m2m + iot Forum 2019 concluded, in association with The European Sting

This one small change could transform education for millions

EU officially launches its first naval mission against migrant smugglers

Why this city is paying people to move there

Independent rights experts sound alarm at Iran protest crackdown, internet blackout

This is the state of the world’s health, in numbers

Telemedicine and the Brazilian reality

Alarm over violent attacks on lawmakers, opposition in Malawi, ahead of elections

Ebola: EU releases additional €3.5 million to tackle epidemic

Talking the talk: the voice-recognition disruptors looking to outsmart big tech

EU Commission – US hasten talks to avoid NGO reactions on free trade agreement

CLIMATE CHANGE FOCUS: Tunisia coastline in need of climate cash boost

Mine ban agreement ‘has saved countless lives’, but ‘accelerated efforts’ needed to end scourge for good: Guterres

Eurozone: Bankers-politicians rig keeps robbing taxpayers

GSMA Announces First Keynote Speakers for 2019 “MWC Los Angeles, in Partnership with CTIA”

This study wants every child in the UK to spend a night under the stars

‘Champion for multilateralism’ readies to hand over UN General Assembly gavel

Future fit: 3 ways fashion can be more sustainable

Youth leaders share positive visions of the future, as Guterres launches UN75 in New York

EU Commission challenges Berlin by proposing breakthrough legislation on banks

Get off the path of deadly emissions, UN chief Guterres to urge in key climate change speech

Cameron postpones speech in Holland

Free trade agreement between EU and India?

Why press freedom should be at the top of everyone’s agenda

‘Ground Zero’: Report from the former Semipalatinsk Test Site in Kazakhstan

Humane leadership must be the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s real innovation

Militias force nearly 2,000 to leave Libyan capital’s largest shelter for internally-displaced: UNHCR

Boris to end up in jail if he loses the next elections?

Around 600,000 Afghan children face death through malnutrition without emergency funds: UNICEF

Working with millennials, leaders say humility works better than bossing around

Libya: UN report urges accountability for deadly attack against migrant centre

Greece to stay in the euro area but the cost to its people remains elusive

Passwords should become a thing of the past. Here’s why

How tech can lead reskilling in the age of automation

3 ways governments and carmakers can keep up with the future of transport

In Sweden you can roam anywhere you like, without the landowner’s permission

New UN agriculture agency report underscores value of fishing in fight against global hunger

Breaking news on European Youth Employment: European Youth Forum Guide tackles poor quality internships!

Italy’s Letta: A European Banking Union soon or Eurozone collapses

State aid: Commission approves Danish public financing of Fehmarn Belt fixed rail-road link

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s