Gov't, citizen cooperation pivotal in controlling COVID-19 -- research

Combined self and government-imposed measures and social distancing intervention can be “pivotal” to achieving control over a COVID-19 epidemic, a study cited.

A resident rides her bicycle past armed soldiers along a street in Navotas in suburban Manila on July 16, 2020, after the local government reimposed a lockdown in the city due to increased COVID-19 infections. (Photo by Ted ALJIBE / AFP / MANILA BULLETIN)

This, in essence, is the content of a research article entitled “Impact of self-imposed prevention measures and short-term government-imposed social distancing on mitigating and delaying a COVID-19 epidemic: A modelling study” which was posted on PLOS Medicine.

Authored by Alexandra Teslya, Thi Mui Pham, Noortje Godijk, Mirjam Kretzschmar, Martin C. J. Bootsma, and Ganna Rozhnova, the article cited how the spread of coronavirus disease can be mitigated.

“Our results suggest that information dissemination about COVID-19, which causes individual adoption of handwashing, mask-wearing, and social distancing, can be an effective strategy to mitigate and delay the epidemic,” the authors said.

The study aimed to compare the “individual and combined effectiveness of self-imposed prevention measures and of short-term government-imposed social distancing in mitigating, delaying, or preventing” a COVID-19 epidemic.

The group developed a deterministic compartmental transmission model of SARS-CoV-2 in a population stratified by disease status including those “susceptible, exposed, infectious with mild or severe disease, diagnosed, and recovered” as well as disease awareness status or those who are “aware and unaware” due to the spread of COVID-19.

“Government-imposed social distancing reduced the contact rate of individuals irrespective of their disease or awareness status,” the authors noted. “For fast awareness spread in the population, self-imposed measures can significantly reduce the attack rate and diminish and postpone the peak number of diagnoses,” they added.

Based on their estimate, the authors noted that a “large epidemic can be prevented if the efficacy of these measures exceeds 50 percent.” They added that early implementation of short-term government-imposed social distancing alone is “estimated to delay” - by at most 7 months for a 3-month intervention - “but not to reduce the peak.”

The group noted that the delay “can be even longer and the height of the peak can be additionally reduced if this intervention is combined with self-imposed measures that are continued after government-imposed social distancing has been lifted.”

In addition to policies on social distancing, they also recommended that governments and public health institutions to “mobilize people to adopt self-imposed measures with proven efficacy in order to successfully tackle” COVID-19.

While their analyses may be “limited,” the authors maintained that wide and intensive promotion of self-imposed measures - with proven efficacy by governments or public health institutions - may be a “key ingredient to tackle COVID-19.”

In December 2019, the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) - caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) - first emerged in China and continued to spread in many countries in the world.