The tougher measures appear to be the most effective in stopping the coronavirus

The tougher measures appear to be the most effective in stopping the coronavirus

Lockdowns, heavy restrictions on closures, hours and home confinement give the greatest results in taming the pandemic, says a study comparing the policies of 40 states

(Photo by VINCENZO PINTO / AFP via Getty Images ) In the fight against coronavirus, the most effective measures and policies against a greater spread of the virus are also those that have the most impact on social life, which provide for closures and obligations and not just recommendations. This was shown by an international study, in which the University of Toronto took part, which analyzed the policies adopted by 40 countries, including the United States, identifying the best measures and strategies to contain the contagion. The results, published in Plos One, confirm that severe social restrictions, such as the obligation to stay at home, the closure or staggered entry into offices and schools, are better suited to controlling the pandemic.

An 11-rule-based model

Researchers studied the role of policies in 40 countries for coronavirus containment. To do this, they used a mathematical model that takes into account the measures adopted, the level at which they are applied and updated, the degree of compliance with the rules, the number of cases of Covid-19 and associated deaths, the impact of the same measures in other jurisdictions, always considering infected and dead from coronavirus. The measures have been grouped into 11 categories and are as follows: closure of schools and workplaces, cancellation of public events, restrictions on meetings with more people, stop of public transport, request to stay at home, blocking of internal traffic, checks on international travel, public information campaigns and contact tracing.

The most effective policies

The analysis revealed that all the restrictions considered may have some effect, even if only the most rigid ones are able to better counteract the transmission of the virus. The lighter measures, in fact, such as the cancellation of public events and the blocking of even private events with 100 or more people and the simple recommendations to stay at home, are not enough to control the pandemic in more than 90% of the countries considered. Only in very few situations - as in the case of Sweden in the first phase of the pandemic - have these less taxing measures also been effective: this is because here the ability to adhere to the rules, the so-called compliance, is greater, also due to demographic factors such as reduced population density compared to that present in other countries.

Policies, the role of compliance

Compliance, the authors explain, depends in turn on other factors, such as demographics, including a lower population density. In the case of Sweden, it was found that in the first phase of the emergency there was no major damage from Covid. The authors' hypothesis indicates that then demographic characteristics, including reduced population density, and climatic conditions may have had some protective role.

More restrictive measures are more effective

In most countries, the most effective rules are also those that are less tolerable from a social point of view. In particular, more relevant in reducing the percentage of growth of cases is the closure of jobs, followed by restrictions on circulation, the obligation to stay at home, information campaigns and the closure of schools. While the ability to test as many people and contact tracing (even with apps), which also remain fundamental for learning more about the disease and the epidemic, were less relevant in curbing the pandemic.

In general often the policies adopted in the various countries are and follow the same trend. Almost all countries, with a few exceptions, closed their jobs at a higher and more widespread level especially in the first phase of the pandemic (in March 2020). School closures are also more marked in the first phase.

A reflection on the data

At the time of the study, which is based on data up to 22 November, the number of new infections per week every 10 thousand inhabitants was higher in Italy and Switzerland, while the percentages of increase in cases (the more they grew in that week) gave the unfortunate record to Sweden, Colorado and Pennsylvania. At that time, the countries with the lowest growth were Belgium, Chile, Denmark and France.

In general these differences, and in part also the fact that in some countries the pandemic was better controlled (although almost all were similarly affected), depend on the type of measures adopted and the aforementioned compliance. The study, the researchers conclude, highlights important mechanisms at the basis of contagion containment and points the way to a greater understanding of the impact of individual measures and of the factors underlying adherence to the regulations.

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