In the absence of a Covid-19 vaccine, social distancing measures may be needed until mid-2021, according to a new study.
A cautious and measured approach to loosening restrictions (by maintaining social distancing for as long as possible) will protect the most vulnerable members of society and support the health service.
The researchers used a detailed mathematical model. A model calibrated on data on the prevalence of cases by age, as well as on the variable number of people hospitalized and who died from the disease. The purpose? Predict both the short-term and long-term impact of COVID-19 on easing measures.
For researchers, a significant relaxation of social distancing measures could lead to a very rapid recovery of the epidemic from coronavirus.
A sizable second wave of epidemics that could overwhelm the health system. In all the strategies considered, there was a strong recovery in the demand for intensive care resources during the pandemic.
What would work?
The reintroduction and release of stringent measures on a regional basis, based on ICU admissions, results in a long epidemic queue, until the second half of 2021, but guarantees the protection of health service workers.
For the study, the researchers simulated a selection of scenarios to assess the effects of different easing approaches to social distancing measures starting in May 2020.
Among the scenarios were evaluated:
- The impact of reducing adherence to blocking rules;
- Continuing protection of older age groups while measures are relaxed for younger members of the population;
- An "intermittent" application of rigorous measures of social distancing using regional parameters based on the number of ICU admissions in relation to the capacity of hospitals.
“Our model shows that a significant relaxation of social distancing measures would produce a rapid recovery of Covid-19. A second wave would lead to the collapse of the health service ”. To say it is Matt Keeling, professor atUniversity of Warwick and director of the Zeeman Institute for Systems Biology and Epidemiological Research on Infectious Diseases.
Calm and cool
“To prevent this second wave we need smart strategies. Scenarios where social distancing measures are slowly and gradually eased. Across the entire population or targeting different regions or age groups. Ultimately, the scenario that minimizes deaths from COVID-19 requires long-term social distancing until a cure or vaccine is developed. "
Michael Tildesley, his colleague at the University of Warwick, agrees. "We work all day to understand the complex patterns of diffusion and find ways in which life can take a step towards normalcy without endangering lives."