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Scientists Come up with a Lockdown Cycle to Curb Coronavirus

COVID-19 deaths could be reduced by implementing an alternating cycle of 50 days of strict lockdown measures followed by 30 days of easing, to balance the effect of the virus on citizens’ health as well as the economy, scientists report.

According to the recently published EU-backed research, scientists from nine countries conducted simulations of three different simulations to find out how each would influence the spread pattern of Coronavirus.

Five months into the Coronavirus Outbreak, the John Hopkins University data indicate that out of 5M worldwide confirmed cases, 300,000 people have died.  The scientists based their research on different models of scenarios in 16 countries, including Belgium, Australia, South Africa, and Nigeria.

Scientists Suggest New and Better Mitigative Measures

Over 80% of governments around the world implemented some form of mitigative measures to stop the spread of the Coronavirus. While this has led to the collapse of global trade and the collapse of the global economy, some of these measures have been effective, and some of the countries that responded proactively have started to gradually reopen.

New research, however, suggests a new alternative that will protect the citizens. However, it will allow both the economy and the health system to take a break from a heavy beating.

Instead of speculative or indefinite lockdowns, the approach calls for milder lockdowns. It also requires intervals of easing social distancing measures, effective testing, isolation, contact tracing, and prioritizing the most vulnerable in society.

The research comes at a time when even the most proactive countries have heard some setbacks. For instance, China, which was among the first to start reopening, had to pull back opening gyms in Beijing amidst fears of a second outbreak.  Meanwhile, in Singapore, the country is currently conducting extensive testing and isolation measures after a second wave broke out of its factory workers’ dormitories.

Three Months of Continuous Strict Suppression Would Be Most Effective

Researchers have advised that, according to their results, the most effective strategy would enable countries to reduce cases close to zero in a little over six months.

The first scenario looks at what would happen if governments did not impose any measures against the Coronavirus. In all 16 countries, the results showed that patients flooded the intensive care units. This overwhelmed the system. It resulted in the deaths of 7.8 million people across the countries, in a duration of about 200 days.

In the second scenario, the researchers introduced a unique cycle of mitigation measures period of 50-day. Then, a 30-day relaxation period followed.  The suggested measures, excluding a total lockdown, are social distancing, hygiene, isolation, and closure of public spaces, events, and schools.

This scenario would likely reduce the reproduction rate of the virus (R Number) in all the countries to about 0.8. But only for the first three months of the implementation.  The scientists found out that after the measures were lifted, the ICUs would quickly become overwhelmed again. This would consequently lead to the death of 3.5 million people, lasting for about 12 months in developed economies. While taking up to 18 months in developing regions.

The third and final scenario modeled for stricter “suppression measures” during the 50-day period and a 30-day relaxation period.  Here, the suppression measures would lead to a faster reduction of infections. This is possible by combining a strict lockdown on top of second scenario measures.

The Results

They found out that this would reduce the R number from 0.8 to 0.5. Resulting in maintaining the ICUs within working capacity in all countries. While it is the most effective of the three modeled scenarios, it would still expose more people at the end of the lockdown. Therefore, it is likely to drag out for over 18 months in all countries.

The death toll would, however, be significantly reduced, totaling 130,000 in all the modeled countries. Even with individual measures by each country to determine how their intervals would play out.

Third Strategy Would Allow the Citizens and the Economy to Breathe

The rotation of strict suppression and relaxation period would allow the populations to breathe and intervals, according to Global health epidemiologist at the University of Cambridge, Rajiv Chowdhury.

He also added that it would, in turn, be favorable economic news for regions with fewer resources.

“That might make this solution more sustainable, especially in resource-poor regions.”

According to Oscar Franco, the director of preventive medicine at the University of Bern in Switzerland, there is no definite answer to what is ultimately the best strategy. But countries will have to “weigh up the dilemma of preventing COVID-19 related deaths.”

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