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Medical staff put on protective equipment before attending to COVID-19 patients at the Red Cross Hospital in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province on March 16, 2020

Capital Health

China case study shows a lockdown is highly effective in curbing spread of COVID-19

The images were akin to children released to go home after a long and laborious day at school. After a grueling 76-day lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in China, Wuhan city, which was the epicenter of the pandemic, mid this week lifted restrictions of movement both within and outside the city.

The relief was palpable. Home to 11 million residents, the city reopened the occasion with a midnight light show. It was a message to the world that they had paid the price for their future survival.

In many countries, including the developed world, governments are still toying around with the need for instituting lockdown measures as a way of preventing and controlling the high transmission rate of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The high human toll from coronavirus cannot be denied, even for the hardened pessimist. As of April 9, there were 94,888 COVID-19 related deaths, and 1,587,709 total cases of the growing pandemic.  

Indeed, a lockdown is no-nonsense. For instance, the Prime Minister of Sint Maarten, Ms Silveria Jacobs, a country that is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, was recently quoted as saying, “I ain’t here to play games like the leaders of the first world, you will stay in your house, and you will save lives.”

A lockdown has been defined as “an emergency protocol that usually prevents people or information from leaving an area.” A full lockdown usually means that people must stay where they are, and may not enter or exit a building or rooms within a particular building.

According to the online journal, Science, which studied the effectiveness of China’s lockdown, the national emergency response appears to have delayed the growth and limited the size of the pandemic in the country, preventing hundreds of thousands of cases by day 50 of the emergence of COVID-19.

The research, titled, “An investigation of transmission control measures during the first 50 days of the COVID-19 epidemic in China”, notes that the lockdown that started in Wuhan, and the larger Hubei Province on January 23 led to massive reductions in case incidence.

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They halted transportation in and out of the target area, and barred tens of millions of people from working or going to school. The government also closed all shops, except those selling food or medicine. In some areas, residents were even forced to limit trips to the store, or order supplies for delivery.

Indeed, countries that have managed to push back the virus and flatten the curve of infection have been helped a great deal by instituting strict lockdown measures. Countries that have instituted such drastic action are diverse including Italy, India, France, Spain, India, Denmark, Rwanda, Uganda, and South Africa.

Experts believe that pussyfooting around the need for a lockdown in the U.S. has made the superpower the current epicentre of the virus. To date, America has recorded over 370,000 COVID-19 cases, and more than 11,000 deaths.

According to a new study from the Imperial College in London COVID-19 Response Team, the purpose of a lockdown is to reduce the number of people each confirmed case infects.

The study states that painful as it is, a lockdown should be used early enough for maximum benefits. Modeling shows that without any lockdown, peak mortality can be expected in about three months.

Using that scenario, 81 per cent of both U.K. and U.S. populations would be infected, with 510,000 deaths and 2.2 million deaths respectively. Well, these sound like doomsday scenarios, but no government would like to test the veracity of the claims.

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