Two studies published Monday in the journal Nature found that pandemic-era policies — such as stay-at-home orders, mandatory business closures and travel bans imposed by governments worldwide — have successfully reduced COVID-19 transmission and deaths, revealing the necessity of aggressive measures in limiting the impact of the virus.
Coronavirus-related shutdowns saved an estimated 3.1 million lives in 11 European countries, according to one study, conducted by epidemiologists at Imperial College London.
Another study, led by researchers from the University of California at Berkeley, looked at the effect of 1,717 policies like stay-at-home orders and travel bans in six countries: the United States, China, South Korea, Italy, Iran and France. They calculated that within these six countries, interventions prevented approximately 62 million test-confirmed coronavirus cases. Because most infections are never confirmed with a test, the actual number of prevented cases is much higher — about 530 million across all six countries.
Both reports provide evidence relevant to countries that are beginning to reopen their economies, as well as countries that have not yet been widely affected by the virus.
Because no country has reached anywhere close to herd immunity, which is when a majority of the population is immune to the virus, experts caution that the reopening of economies without aggressive precautions will likely set off a second wave of infections.