A new study from Europe claims that it may be an effective way to keep COVID-19 deaths down and minimize the damage to economies if countries practice an alternating cycle of 50 days of strict lockdown followed by 30 days of relaxed restrictions.
They did not advise a full relaxing of restrictions because it could overrun hospitals and increase the death toll to millions. The study looked at 16 countries and determined that this strategy could potentially help as nations fight the deadly disease.
Alternate Schedule of Quarantine Measures
Medical experts say that a vaccine for coronavirus may take a year before people can use it. That is why governments around the world have ordered lockdowns and implemented quarantine measures to prevent their citizens from getting the virus.
Stay-at-home strategies aim to slow the spread of the virus; however it has also resulted in 36 million Americans losing their jobs over the past two months. Many countries have slowly reopened, and the pressure only gets worse to get people working again while preventing a second wave of the outbreak.
That is where this new strategy comes in, according to WUSA. Dr. Rajiv Chowdhurry, University of Cambridge's Global Health Epidemiologist, said that an intermittent combination of strict social distancing, and a relaxed period, with efficient testing, case isolation, contact tracing and protecting the vulnerable, may help economies 'breathe' at intervals. He added that this model could be best practiced in resource-poor regions.
The study looked at three scenarios in 16 countries: Africa, South, and West Asia, Australia, Western Europe, North America, and South America, which all vary in setting and income. The US is not part of the study. The researchers published their study in the European Journal of Epidemiology.
The Three Models of Alternate Scheduling
According to the study, the first model did not implement any lockdown measures, increasing the COVID-19 positive cases which no country could handle. It has predicted that the pandemic would last nearly 200 days in most of the 16 countries.
Moreover, the study calculated that the death toll could become as high as 7.8 million in just those countries, how much more if the whole world will not impose lockdown measures.
On the other hand, the second scenario looked at a rolling plan of 50 days of lockdowns (but not strict) followed by 30 days of relaxing. In this way, the R or the number of people each infected individual goes on to infect will be reduced to 0.8 in all countries.
However, this would not be enough to keep the number of patients going to the ICU because it only works for the first three months but ultimately will lead to 3.5 million deaths in those 16 countries. Plus, the pandemic could last for another 12 to 18 months, depending on the region.
Lastly, the final model would be five days of strict lockdowns followed by 30 days of relaxed restriction, then repeat. According to the study, this strategy could lower the R number to 0.5 and keep the ICU demand with the level all countries can handle. Moreover, it could also keep the death toll to 130,000 across the 16 countries, but extending the pandemic period for more than 18 months.
The researchers noted that these durations vary depending on what each country could handle. It provides a strategic option that countries can use to control the disease and delay its peak.