Covid-19 data analysis shows return to pre-lockdown life will be difficult without a vaccine
Published On Tue 5 May 2020
An analysis of SARS-CoV-2 pandemic data from more than 70 countries, carried out by researchers at the University of Dundee, shows that a return to pre-lockdown levels of activity in society will be almost impossible without a vaccine.
Activity may have to be limited to 10% of pre-lockdown levels if the virus is to be successfully contained while we await a vaccine.
Researchers Dr Mike Lonergan and Professor James Chalmers, in the School of Medicine, said the data shows that unless a vaccine becomes rapidly available, discussions around exit strategy from current restrictions need to move on from optimistic concepts of returning rapidly to normal activity.
Dr Lonergan said, “Our data is more consistent with a need to adopting a `new normal’ that can provide the optimal balance between allowing economic activity while ensuring very substantial reductions in prior social contacts, which according to our best estimates would mean 90% reductions.
“What is clear is that even the current levels of lockdown we are seeing around the world, to a point beyond what most societies would have previously imagined accepting, can barely contain the disease’s spread.”
Controlling the spread of Covid-19 is dependent on the now widely-known `R number’, the rate of person-to-person infection, staying below 1.
Dr Lonergan said, “R0, or more precisely Rt, seems to be the key to this problem: until and unless a vaccine or effective treatment becomes available, we need a liveable way to keep R below 1.
“It is hard to see lockdown continuing indefinitely. It is beyond the scope of our research to describe what the components of a new normal may be but discussions will have to include continuing social distancing, public use of face-coverings, testing, tracking and isolating infected individuals and contacts, and widespread screening of asymptomatic individuals among other considerations.
“It is difficult to say which elements of lockdown will have had the greatest impact in controlling the spread of Covid-19, and that needs to be factored in. But until there is a vaccine then it is very difficult to see how we can live without some form of continued restrictions.”
The researchers looked at data on the numbers of new confirmed cases of Covid-19, and numbers of deaths reported for people known to have Covid-19, for each day up to April 21, 2020. Data was obtained from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control website on the 21st April. Mortality data was used for countries that had reported at least 100 deaths, and numbers of cases for those where at least 1000 confirmed cases had been reported.
For the full paper see https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.04.26.20080994v1.full.pdf