Do Not Lift Lockdowns Fully Until Effective Vaccine Found! Warns a News Study


New study warns not to lift lockdowns fully until a vaccine for coronavirus is found, writes Emma Reynolds for an article published in CNN. 

Coronavirus lockdowns 

A study based on China’s outbreak published in medical journal The Lancet says, coronavirus lockdowns across the globe should not be completely lifted until a vaccine for the disease is found.

China’s draconian restrictions on daily life appear to have halted the first wave of Covid-19 across much of the country, but the researchers used mathematical modeling to show that premature lifting of measures could result in a sweeping second wave of infection.

Wuhan lockdown lift

Authorities lifted the 76-day lockdown of Wuhan in Hubei province on Wednesday. As Wuhan, the original epicenter of the coronavirus crisis emerges from the deadly outbreak that is now raging across the globe. 

Lockdown lifted with few restrictions

Some restrictions will remain in place, however, with officials conscious of the risk as trains and tourist sites were packed across the country.

Restrictions on people and goods movement

Strict restrictions on the movement of people and goods were introduced across China on January 23 after the novel coronavirus emerged in Wuhan in December, drastically affecting the economy as well as personal freedoms. 

These have since been progressively relaxed in some Chinese provinces, with factories and offices gradually reopening.

No herd immunity yet

Professor Joseph T Wu from the University of Hong Kong, who co-led the research said in a news release that though the control measures in place seems to reduce the number of infections to very low levels, cases could easily resurge without herd immunity against Covid-19.

Risk of imported cases 

The professor added saying that as businesses, factory operations, and schools gradually resume and increase social mixing, particularly given the increasing risk of imported cases from overseas as Covid-19 continues to spread globally.

Warning against economic activities

He cautioned that unless governments ensured restrictions were lifted slowly and transmission was closely monitored, the speed of infection would rise.

“Although control policies such as physical distancing and behavioral change are likely to be maintained for some time, proactively striking a balance between resuming economic activities and keeping the reproductive number below one is likely to be the best strategy until effective vaccines become widely available.”

Lifting lockdown for economy 

The research could be critical as countries across the world which had lockdowns in place for just a few weeks, consider how best to ease restrictions to get their economies moving again. 

Could lead to catastrophe

Getting it wrong could lead to further outbreaks and new restrictions, the study found, and could be catastrophic for health services and economies.

Gradual loosening of restrictions


Austria on Monday said it would gradually begin to reopen shops after Easter, one of several European countries preparing to loosen restrictions. 


In Germany, a group of economists, lawyers and medical experts are recommending a gradual revival of Europe’s biggest economy that would allow specific industries and workers to resume their activities while steps are taken to prevent a resurgence of coronavirus.

UK government reviewing its lockdown 

In a report published by the Ifo Institute for Economic Research, many academics wrote that they do not expect a vaccine or effective treatment for the coronavirus to be available before 2021.

The UK government is reviewing its lockdown almost three weeks after it started. But London Mayor Sadiq Khan said that it was “nowhere near” easing restrictions with the expected peak more than a week away.

Who should be allowed to return home?

British economics researchers have suggested that the 4.2 million young people aged 20-30 who do not live with their parents should be allowed to return to work first.

Ease severe damage

Andrew J. Oswald and Nattavudh Powdthavee, from Warwick University, said in a briefing paper that the idea would help ease the “severe damage” that is being done to the country’s economy.

“Unless a vaccine is discovered quickly, it is unlikely that there will be any riskless or painless course of action,” the paper states.

The death rate in China

The effects of lifting a lockdown too early could hit some areas harder than others. Further analysis in the Lancet report showed that the risk of death for those who tested positive for Covid-19 varied substantially in different parts of China, based on economic development and availability of health care resources.

The death rate in Hubei was 5.91%, almost six times higher than outside the province, where it was 0.98%, the study found.

Beijing and Shanghai could struggle

Senior author Professor Gabriel M Leung from the University of Hong Kong, said in the release accompanying the Lancet report that “Even in the most prosperous and well-resourced megacities like Beijing and Shanghai, health care resources are finite, and services will struggle with a sudden increase in demand.” 

“Our findings highlight the importance of ensuring that local health-care systems have adequate staffing and resources to minimize Covid-related deaths.”

Possible second wave?

The analysis of four cities and 10 provinces outside Hubei states that measures should be lifted gradually or the number of cases will progressively rise over the relaxation period.

The estimates also suggest that once the burden of rising cases is elevated, simply tightening interventions again would not reduce the burden back to its original level. This would require extra effort, likely resulting in bigger health and economic effects.

Resurgence of transmission

Co-lead author Dr. Kathy Leung from the University of Hong Kong said they are acutely aware that as economic activity increases across China in the coming weeks, local or imported infection could lead to a resurgence of transmission.

Minimize impact of a possible second wave 

“Real-time monitoring of the effect of increased mobility and social mixing on Covid-19 transmissibility could allow policymakers to fine tune control measures to interrupt transmission and minimize the impact of a possible second wave of infections.”

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Source: CNN


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