Close monitoring of the situation in China in the coming weeks should help inform strategies to combat the Coronavirus (COVID19) pandemic in other countries, a new research suggests.
The March 16, 2020 research published by the London Imperial College says while a combination of suppressive interventions rapidly reduce the COVID case incidence, the transmission could quickly rebound once theses interventions are relaxed.
It therefore warns that an intensive intervention package comprising of school and university closures, social distancing and home isolation will need to be maintained until a vaccine becomes available (potentially 18 months or more).
The research titled “ Impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to reduce COVID-19 mortality and healthcare demand” was done by the COVID-Response team at the Imperial College London, in collaboration with other partners namely; the WHO Collaborating Centre for Infectious Disease, MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis and Abdul Latif Jameel Institute for Disease and Emergency Analytics (J-IDEA)
The research stresses that China should offer learning points in the coming weeks.
“While experience in China and now South Korea show that suppression is possible in the short term, it remains to be seen whether it is possible long-term, and whether the social and economic costs of the interventions adopted thus far can be reduced,” the research says.
Through the hospitalization of all cases, China in effect initiated a form of case isolation, reducing onward transmission from cases in the household and in other settings.
At the same time, by implementing population-wide social distancing, the opportunity for onward transmission in all locations rapidly reduced.
In a press statement by the researchers, Professor Azra Ghani, Chair in Infectious Disease Epidemiology from the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis, said: “The current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic is evolving rapidly; governments and societies therefore need to be flexible in responding the challenges it poses. Our results indicate that widescale social distancing measures, that are likely to have a major impact on our day-to-day lives, are now necessary to reduce further spread and prevent our health system being overwhelmed. Close monitoring will be required in the coming weeks and months to ensure that we minimise the health impact of this disease.”
Professor Christl Donnelly, Professor of Statistical Epidemiology within J-IDEA, said: “The challenges we collectively face are daunting. However, our work indicates if a combination of measures are implemented, then transmission can be substantially reduced. These measures will be disruptive but uncertainties will reduce over time, and while we await effective vaccines and drugs, these public health measures can reduce demands on our healthcare systems.”
Professor Steven Riley, Professor of Infectious Disease Dynamics within J-IDEA, said: “We have to accept that COVID-19 is a severe infection and it is currently able to spread in countries such as the US and the UK. In this report, we show that the most stringent traditional interventions are required in the short term to halt its spread. Once they are in place, it becomes a common priority for us all to find the best possible ways to improve on those interventions”
Statistics at the World Health Organization (WHO) show that as of March 25, 2020, there have been 416,686cases and 18,589deaths confirmed in 197 countries, areas or territories with cases.
Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.
WHO says the best way to prevent and slow down transmission is be well informed about the COVID-19 virus, the disease it causes and how it spreads. Individuals are advised to protect themselves from infection by washing your hands or using an alcohol-based rub frequently and not touching the face.
The COVID-19 virus spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Currently, there are no specific vaccines or treatments for COVID-19. However, there are many ongoing clinical trials evaluating potential treatments.
Compiled by Carol Natukunda, Communications Specialist, African Center for Global Health and Social Transformation (ACHEST)