Public/Global Health

Study: Early lockdowns prevented additional COVID-19 deaths in multiple countries

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Early lockdowns in developed countries that suffered coronavirus outbreaks were a determining factor in lessening the number of excess deaths from the pandemic, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature Medicine.

The study from researchers at Imperial College London found that the timing and extent of state-ordered lockdown procedures contributed to the length of time it took for infection levels to return to low rates.

“The timing of the lockdown in relation to when initial infections occurred affects the peak number of people who are infected, which drives both the number of deaths from COVID-19 and the pressure on the healthcare system that displaces routine care for other diseases,” its authors wrote.

“The stringency of the lockdown, together with the extent and effectiveness of testing, contract tracing and isolation, determines how long it takes for the number of cases to return to low levels and can therefore account for some of the variations in the intensity and duration of excess deaths observed here,” they continued.

Authors of the study pointed to early lockdown measures implemented by leaders in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Norway, Finland, New Zealand and Slovakia as being particularly effective in keeping infection rates to low enough levels where national contact tracing programs could be effective.

Other European countries in the 21-nation study were less willing to implement lockdown measures early on, resulting in greater stress on their health care systems.

“At the other extreme, Italy, which was the initial European epicenter of the pandemic, Spain, the Netherlands, France and the United Kingdom put lockdown measures in place only after the number of cases and deaths had risen to such levels that the epidemic continued for weeks,” the study’s authors said.

In the U.S., President Trump has touted his administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, including his decision to ban some travel from China, where the virus is thought to have originated, earlier this year. He has slammed Democratic governors and his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, on the issue of implementing lockdown measures, which the president has said were not necessary to control the virus’s spread. The U.S. currently has the most confirmed COVID-19 cases of any country.

“Joe Biden wants to inflict a painful shutdown on the entire country,” Trump said during his August speech accepting the Republican nomination for president.

Biden, meanwhile, told ABC News in August that he “would shut it down, I would listen to the scientists,” if he were advised by experts that the U.S. needed a national lockdown to bring the virus’s spread under control.

Tags Coronavirus coronavirus lockdowns Donald Trump Joe Biden

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