Washington, United States:
China's decision to block Wuhan City, Ground Zero for the global COVID-19 pandemic, could have prevented more than 700,000 new cases by delaying the spread of the virus, researchers said Tuesday.
Drastic Chinese control measures in the first 50 days of the epidemic gave other cities across the country valuable time to prepare and implement their own restrictions, according to researchers in China, the United States and the United Kingdom, published in the journal Science.
By the 50th day of the epidemic – February 19 – there were 30,000 confirmed cases in China, said Christopher Dye, one of the authors of the newspaper in Oxford.
"Our analysis suggests that without Wuhan's travel ban and national emergency response, there would have been more than 700,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases outside of Wuhan by that date," he said in a press release.
"China's control measures seem to have worked by successfully breaking the transmission chain – preventing contact between infectious and vulnerable people."
The researchers used a combination of case reports, public health information, and location tracking for mobile phones to study the spread of the virus.
Telephone tracking provided a "fascinating" new data stream, said another report author, Penn State's biology professor Ottar Bjornstad.
The period they studied included China's largest holiday, the Lunar New Year.
The researchers "were able to compare travel patterns in and out of Wuhan during the outbreak to cell phone data from two previous spring festivals," said Björnstad.
"The analysis showed an extraordinary decrease in movement after the January 23, 2020 travel ban. Based on this data, we were also able to calculate the likely decrease in Wuhan-related cases in other cities across China."
Shutting down Wuhan delayed the virus's arrival in other cities, as their model showed, and gave them time to prepare, including banning public gatherings and closing entertainment venues.
Almost half of humanity is said to remain at home to curb the spread of the virus, and blocking is normalizing quickly.
When Beijing first closed Wuhan over two months ago, the decision was seen as a dramatic escalation in the fight against infection.
As city restrictions slowly lift and life approaches normal, the question for China – and other countries around the world – is what will happen when the movement resumes.
"We are very aware that resident or imported infections can revive the transmission," said another report author, Huaiyu Tian, an associate professor of epidemiology at Beijing Normal University.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)