Can social distancing truly reduce coronavirus cases?

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Having intervention measures, such as social distancing, can reduce coronavirus cases, according to new research.

A specific combined approach has been found most effective in reducing COVID-19 cases compared with other intervention scenarios in the study “Interventions to mitigate early spread of SARS-CoV-2 in Singapore: a modelling study.”

The combined approach involves social distancing interventions, comprising quarantine (for infected individuals and their families), school closure, and workplace distancing. Published in The Lancet, the new modelling study held a simulated setting.

The study is considered the first of its kind to examine using these options for early intervention in Singapore using simulation.

“Should local containment measures, such as preventing disease spread through contact tracing efforts and, more recently, not permitting short-term visitors, be unsuccessful, the results of this study provide policy makers in Singapore and other countries with evidence to begin the implementation of enhanced outbreak control measures that could mitigate or reduce local transmission rates if deployed effectively and in a timely manner,” said Dr. Alex R Cook, National University of Singapore.

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“If the preventive effect of these interventions reduces considerably due to higher asymptomatic proportions, more pressure will be placed on the quarantining and treatment of infected individuals, which could become unfeasible when the number of infected individuals exceeds the capacity of health-care facilities. At higher asymptomatic rates, public education and case management become increasingly important, with a need to develop vaccines and existing drug therapies,” Dr Alex R Cook added.

The authors reported several limitations in their study, such as dated census population data, impact of migrant movement, the impact of seeding of imported cases (transmissions originating from outside of Singapore) the dynamics of contact patterns between individuals, and other unforeseen factors.

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