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COVID-19: Coronavirus strategies shifted following epidemiologists' report

Coronavirus medical illustration

19 March 2020

A team of researchers have predicted that attempts to slow rather than suppress the novel coronavirus could overwhelm the public health system. 

Tiffany Hionas

Researchers from Imperial College London, UK, have recently analysed the impact of different public health measures on reducing the spread of the virus using a simulation model. 

The research showed that policy strategies which aim to suppress the rate of transmission might reduce death and peak healthcare demand by two-thirds, but to suppress transmission to low levels, stronger mitigation interventions will be necessary. 

The report suggests that a suppression strategy will require a combination of social distancing of the entire population, home isolation of cases and household quarantine of their family members. The researchers explained that by closely monitoring disease trends it will be possible for these measures to be relaxed temporarily and to be quickly reintroduced if cases arise. 

Professor Azra Ghani, Chair in Infectious Disease Epidemiology from the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis, said: 'Our results indicate that wide scale social distancing measures, that are likely to have a major impact on our day-to-day lives, are now necessary to reduce further spread and prevent our health system being overwhelmed.’ 

A suppression strategy has been widely adopted by other European countries to slow down the rate of transmission and prevent overwhelming the public health care systems. 

The European Commission recently launched an advisory panel on the coronavirus outbreak, bringing together a group of epidemiologists and virologists to look at how the EU can push forward more aggressive risk management measures.

Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said: 'Together with our public health professionals, clinical practitioners, epidemiologists and virologists, we are at the forefront of the fight against the spread of COVID-19. Time and science matter if we want to win this fight.’

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