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COVID-19: extending or relaxing distancing control measures

Tim Colbourn Published:March 25, 2020

The Lancet Public Health


The study by Kiesha Prem and colleagues in The Lancet Public Healthis crucial for policy makers everywhere, as it indicates the effects of extending or relaxing physical distancing control measures on the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak in Wuhan, China. Prem and colleagues use observed data on COVID-19 spread from Wuhan and finely detailed empirical data from China on the number of contacts per day by age group at home, school, work, and other locations. Their model indicates that if the physical distancing measures begun in late January, 2020, in Wuhan are gradually relaxed in March, the virus could start to resurge 3 months later in June, and generate a second peak 5 months later at the end of August, 2020. However, if measures were relaxed a month later in April, 2020, the resurgence would start an additional 2 months later, in August, 2020, and peak in October. Their projections suggest that an additional month of physical distancing measures (or other methods, such as widespread testing) could buy 2 additional months before such measures would have to be reinstated to prevent the resurgence of the epidemic toward health-care system overload. This potential resurgence mirrors that shown to be likely in the model developed by Ferguson and colleagues.


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