25 Mar 2020 – China’s tough lockdown and physical distancing measures in Wuhan and other provinces appear to have successfully ended new locally transmitted coronavirus infections and may chart a route back to normal life, according to a report from Imperial College London.
The report, from Prof Neil Ferguson and his team, who have been the main modellers of the epidemic for the UK and other governments, suggests it is possible to lift the physical distancing restrictions, as China has begun to do, without a resurgence of the epidemic.
Ferguson said their analysis “provides some hope for countries currently in various levels of lockdown that once case numbers are brought to low levels, it might be possible to relax social distancing – provided equal measures to limit the risk of the resurgence of transmission are introduced”.
He stressed, however, that relaxing the lockdown policies would depend on “rapid and ubiquitous testing and rigorous case and contact isolation policies”. That would mean testing everyone with symptoms and following up and isolating their contacts, in order to stamp out any further flare-ups of infection.
The report says low-level economic activity has started to resume in China and Hong Kong without significant outbreaks. The analysis shows that “intermediate levels of local activity can be maintained while avoiding a large outbreak”, the report says.
The findings do not rule out further epidemics in China, nor estimate what level of normal life is safe. “However, they do suggest that after very intense social distancing which resulted in containment, China has successfully exited their stringent social distancing policy to some degree.”
The report adds: “Globally, China is at a more advanced stage of the pandemic. Policies implemented to reduce the spread of Covid-19 in China and the exiting strategies that followed can inform decision-making processes for countries once containment is achieved.”
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