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Closure of schools, workplaces and cancellation of public events most effective in curbing virus spread
Published on: 2021-12-21
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A new study jointly conducted by China's top respiratory specialist, Zhong Nanshan, and tech giant Tencent shows that an earlier implementation, longer duration and stricter intervention policies at the early stage of the outbreak were associated with reduced infections of COVID-19.
 

The study provides more reliable evidence of the quantitative effects of policy interventions on the COVID-19 epidemic and suggests that stricter public activity interventions should be implemented at the early stage of the epidemic for improved containment, according to the research results announced by Tencent on Monday.
 

The counterfactual model, which analyzes the eight major containment and closure policies of epidemic prevention and control in 145 countries and regions, from December 31, 2019 to July 1, 2020, introduced a novel counterfactual estimator to evaluate the effects of these interventions on COVID-19 time-based reproduction rate.
 

The average intervention effect revealed that all interventions significantly decreased the reproduction rate after their implementation. The reproduction rate decreased by 30 percent in 25 to 32 days after the implementation of the policy intervention.
 

The study also shows that the more stringent and prolonged containment measures implemented early in the outbreak, when infections slowly increase, the fewer people will eventually become infected. However, in the middle and later stages of the epidemic, when infections rapidly increase, the effect is the opposite. The more stringent the measures applied at later stages, the longer they last with an eventual rapid increase in the number of infections.

Sun Jichao, lead author of the survey, said that the reason for this was not a failure of anti-epidemic measures, but because when the strict control measures were put in place until the outbreak began with a rapid increase in the number of infections, it was too late to rectify. Therefore, it provides the lesson that acting as quickly as possible at the beginning of the epidemic will have the greatest impact.
 

The survey also shows that among the eight interventions, schools and workplaces closings, and public events cancellations demonstrated the strongest and most consistent evidence of effective containment.
 

快且准是新冠防控重要法宝

新冠肺炎疫情发生以来,世界各国都实施了一系列的疫情防控政策,如关闭学校工厂、关闭交通、取消公共活动等,这些严格的防控措施是否必须,哪些防控措施更有效果?
 

日前,由中国工程院院士钟南山团队与腾讯公司联合发表的最新研究成果,让这些问题有了更确切的答案。该研究成果近日已发表在国际医学期刊《健康价值》上。
 

研究团队利用大数据与人工智能技术,分析了第一波新冠疫情期间(2020年上半年),全球145 个国家和地区的8项主要疫情防控措施数据,构建了一种新的反事实推理模型,最大程度排除了影响疫情发展的各种混杂因素,准确地计算出不同政策实施后对病毒传播的抑制作用。
 

研究发现,在防控措施开始实施7至14天后,反映病毒传播能力的“再生数”Rt迅速降低;取消公共活动、关闭学校和关闭工作场所3项防控政策的效果最为显著。研究表明,更快、更精准地实施防控,才能有效遏制新冠肺炎疫情。
 

研究还指出,在疫情暴发早期(感染缓慢增长期)实施的防控措施,措施越严格、持续时间越长,最终感染人数会越少。但是,处于疫情中后期(感染快速增长期)实施防控措施的话,结果则正好相反——防疫措施越严格,持续时间越久,最终感染人数反而增加。
 

“其原因并非疫情防控措施失效,而是反向因果关系。到了感染人数快速增长暴发的时候,才开始制定严格的管控措施,已经收效甚微。这意味‘亡羊补牢’为时已晚,在疫情出现苗头的时候尽快行动,才能实现最大效果。”论文第一作者孙继超博士说。
 

此外,研究者们利用反事实推理模型对8种常见防控措施的效果进行了单独的评估,以找出抑制病毒传播最有效的精准防控措施。8种防控措施包括关闭学校、关闭工作场所、取消公共活动、限制人群聚集、公共交通管制、居家生活建议、限制国内流动、限制国际旅行。
 

结果显示,在各国政府普遍采取的防控措施里,取消大型公共活动、关闭学校、关闭工作场所3项防疫措施对病毒Rt的抑制作用最为显著。研究者推测,这3项措施均属强制性措施,执行可行性和依从性更高,因此,更有可能对遏制疫情生效。

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