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.

the sting Milestones

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

Protecting European consumers: Safety Gate efficiently helps take dangerous COVID-19 products off the market

EU trade agreements deliver on growth and jobs, support sustainable development

European Youth Event 2016 – bridge between youth and policy makers

Civilians ‘must never be a target,’ says UN in Afghanistan, amid troubling number of casualties during Ramadan

Digital business is Europe’s best hope to get back to growth

Australia urged to evacuate offshore detainees amid widespread, acute mental distress

Strict alcohol laws which cut intake more than 40 per cent in Russia, linked to historically high life expectancy

Unemployment and exclusion brings EU cities to boiling point

Cyber-Risk Assessments: the vaccine for companies in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Why the global trade of chemicals is key to COVID-19 recovery

These are the world’s best universities by subject

ISIS fighters fleeing Mosul for Syria can topple Assad. Why did the US now decide to uproot them from Iraq?

If we want to solve climate change, water governance is our blueprint

EU revengefully shows no mercy to Cameron by demanding a fast and sloppy Brexit now

Turkey presents a new strategy for EU accession but foreign policy could be the lucky card

The EU Parliament sidesteps the real issues about banks, while the US target the Eurozone lenders

These scientists are using sound waves to filter plastic fibres from washing machine wastewater

State aid: Commission approves € 1.6 billion Polish scheme to compensate companies for damages suffered due to coronavirus outbreak and provide liquidity support

How climate change can be addressed through executive compensation

North Korea missile tests ‘deeply troubling’: senior UN official

A Young student assesses the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)

How we planted more than 5,000 trees during the COVID-19 pandemic

Draghi cuts the Gordian knot of the Banking Union

‘Democratic aspirations of the Sudanese people’ must be met urges Guterres, following military removal of al-Bashir from power

5G security: Member States report on progress on implementing the EU toolbox and strengthening safety measures

These are the ‘positive’ tipping points that could slow global warming

EU Budget: A Reform Support Programme and an Investment Stabilisation Function to strengthen Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union

African cooperation on peace ‘increasingly strong’, Security Council told

Why the Greeks forgave Tsipras’ pirouettes around austerity and voted again for SYRIZA

Who can compel Wallonia to unlock CETA, the EU-Canada free trade pack?

EU adopts €55 million support package for Syrian refugees and local communities in Jordan and Lebanon to mitigate coronavirus pandemic

Eurobarometer survey: Majority of EU citizens positive about international trade

Social, cultural diversity ‘an enormous richness, not a threat’ Guterres declares calling on investment for a harmonious future

Plastic waste from Western countries is poisoning Indonesia

EU at UNGA 76: working together to address global challenges

Atomic agency cites concerns over Iran testing sites, offers COVID-19 assistance

EU-China Leaders’ meeting: Delivering results by standing firm on EU interests and values

ILO’s Bureau for Employers´Activities to publish new study on women in business and management

Yemen: ‘A great first step’ UN declares as aid team accesses grain silo which can feed millions

Kids who live in the countryside have better motor skills, a study in Finland has found

Taxation: Commission refers Poland to Court for failing to remove certain tax exemptions on the use of energy products by highly polluting businesses

This project is using AI and drones to track and protect great white sharks

The global issue of migration in 2017

High anxiety calls for innovation in digital mental health

An alternative to the future of antimicrobial therapy

IMF: How To Deal With Failed Banks

World’s most powerful tidal turbine pumps out greener electricity in Scotland

Coronavirus fears may have driven over 300,000 UK smokers to quit

On the Global Day of Parents, UNICEF is urging support for parents to give children ‘the best start in life’

The dangers of data: why the numbers never tell the full story

COVID-19 shows why we must build trust in digital financial services

Can a Bavarian Oktoberfest beer indulger bring down the Berlin government?

Combatting antisemitism requires ‘solidarity in the face of hatred’, says UN chief

EU’s new sanctions on Russia into force “in the next few days”: strength, weakness or strategy?

EU to set up new European Partnerships and invest nearly €10 billion for the green and digital transition

Courage of terrorism survivors underlines ‘urgency’ of UN Investigative Team’s work in Iraq

Women-Friendly Spaces for Rohingya refugees: A place for protection and care

Plans to keep EU budget funding in 2020 in the event of a no-deal Brexit

Most US students aren’t learning about climate change. Parents and teachers think they should

GSMA Mobile World Congress Americas

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

%d bloggers like this: