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Infectious Diseases

Updated 31 July 2020

Large analysis of 170 countries shows that lockdown measures did reduce Covid-19 mortality

In the absence of a vaccine, nations had to resort to non-pharmaceutical interventions to stave off Covid-19.

  • The effects of lockdown and other non-pharmaceuticals haven't been fully established
  • Researchers, therefore, did a comparative study of 170 governments and their measures 
  • Detailed calculations show that countries that took stringent measures might have lowered Covid-19 deaths

New research from the Universities of Oxford and Edinburgh suggests that, in the absence of a vaccine, early, strict government measures and non-pharmaceutical interventions may have resulted in significantly fewer Covid-19 deaths.

The aim of this study, published on medRxiv as a pre-print version, was to create a comprehensive database to track the response of 170 governments to the coronavirus, stretching from the period 1 January to 27 May 2020.

The aim of this research

The researchers wanted to determine whether the implementation of several non-pharmaceutical interventions such as lockdown measures, restrictions on travel, and physical distancing could reduce the impact of Covid-19 in these countries.

While there is no vaccine available, and while the virus and the effect of its antibodies are still poorly understood, there has been no other choice but to implement non-pharmaceutical interventions in conjunction with contact tracing and testing to physically halt the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the cause of Covid-19.

These interventions were different in each country, but many nations resorted to extreme lockdowns, which brought economic sectors and social activities to a complete standstill.

The exact cost of these policies in terms of the financial and health implications has not yet been determined.

What was the outcome?

The study implies that the maximum number of daily deaths could be linked to a delay of days to introduce the first set of measures. The mortality rate increased by 9% for each day of delay to introduce measures.

Where these measures were introduced, the daily growth rate of deaths fell by 0.080 percentage points.

The researchers specifically looked at Botswana and South Korea for their low rates of mortality, compared to the US, which had a high mortality rate and a slow start to control the outbreak.

The importance of this research for the future

As the outcome of non-pharmaceutical interventions has still not been entirely established, the researchers wanted to determine whether the measures had a significant impact on the Covid-19 mortality rate.

Their findings could help governments decide on their public health policies while a safe, effective vaccine and targeted treatment are still in development.

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