- As countries around the global fight the spread of the novel coronavirus, a new report by Imperial College London suggests social distancing may be needed until a vaccine is available.
- The report by 30 researchers, analysing the spread of the virus in the US and UK, found that social distancing and quarantines could halve the global death toll.
- But in order to work, they say, we would have to suppress the virus – through social distancing and quarantines – for 18 months or more, which is the amount of time projected for a vaccine to be produced.
- The report has prompted leaders in the US and UK to dramatically change their management strategies to more effectively mitigate the virus.
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The new report that has inspired both the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and US President Donald Trump to take drastic measures to control the novel coronavirus suggests social distancing and quarantine efforts should last well into 2021.
The report from Imperial College London’s COVID-19 Response Team found that deaths from the virus could be cut in half if communities are able to isolate all confirmed cases, and ban public gatherings to prevent further spread.
However, the 30 researchers who authored the report said these measures would have to stay in place until a vaccine is developed to prevent a second wave of infections.
That process could take 18 months or more, experts say.
“The major challenge of suppression is that this type of intensive intervention package will need to be maintained until a vaccine becomes available (potentially 18 months or more), given that we predict that transmission will quickly rebound if interventions are relaxed,” according to the report.
As an example, China’s extreme measures to control the virus, including rerouting public transportation, walling off hospital wards, and using technology to track as many cases as possible, has been found to work in the short-term but it’s unclear what the consequences may be over time.
“It remains to be seen whether it is possible long-term, and whether the social and economic costs of the interventions adopted thus far can be reduced,” according to the report.
World leaders have dramatically changed their management strategies in response to the report
Governments in the UK and US abruptly changed their approach to manage the thread of coronavirus after the report was released Monday, March 16.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Monday that the government would be implementing stricter containment measures after the report indicated the existing strategy could result in up to 250,000 deaths.
In the US, President Trump responded by recommending people avoid nonessential travel and public outings like restaurants and bars, homeschool, and limit any gatherings to fewer than 10 people.
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