Ordering people to stay at home is a futile move which barely reduces Covid infection rates, researchers said yesterday.
The R rate – the key measure of the virus’s spread – drops by only 3 per cent after a month of the restriction being in place.
And a ban on gatherings of more than ten also cuts R by only the same amount – raising questions over the value of the Rule of Six.
The Edinburgh University study found that the main flaw with the two measures was the inability to ensure compliance.
Writing in a Lancet journal, the researchers found that banning public events was the most effective standalone intervention, reducing R by 24 per cent in four weeks.
At the start of the crisis big sporting occasions – such as the Cheltenham Festival and Liverpool’s Champions League clash with Atletico Madrid – went ahead despite widespread warnings.
The research headed by Edinburgh’s Harish Nair is based on an assessment of pandemic measures in 131 countries.
‘If you tell people to stay at home it is very difficult to ensure compliance,’ said the professor. ‘And if you ask people not to meet in groups you have the same problem – it is about adherence. Banning mass events or closing schools, on the other hand, ensures compliance.’
Shutting schools reduced R by 15 per cent but the researchers found that, individually, very few measures have a significant impact. It is only in combination that they work to any great degree, which may explain why the limited local restrictions in England are achieving so little.
The Government’s Sage scientific advisory panel calculated that lockdown in March, including the ‘stay at home’ order, resulted in a 75 per cent reduction in R.
It comes as the UK today announced another 21,242 positive coronavirus tests and the deaths of another 189 people due to the virus.
The chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, said that numbers are ‘still heading in the wrong direction’ but also admitted Britain’s outbreak appears to be slowing.
In other coronavirus developments:
- Rishi Sunak unveiled yet another bailout amid warnings that thousands of bars and restaurants in Tier 2 lockdown areas face going bust;
- Welsh supermarkets have been ordered to only sell ‘essential goods’ during the country’s 17-day lockdown;
- Shocking official figures today show that 17 per cent of firms in the accommodation and food services industry are at ‘severe’ risk of insolvency;
- South Yorkshire agreed a deal to move into Tier 3 from Saturday, meaning 7.3million in England will be living under the toughest Covid rules;
- Boris Johnson sought to bypass Andy Burnham by offering £60million of coronavirus help directly to local councils in Greater Manchester;
- Five hospitality industry bodies in Scotland have launched legal action against Nicola Sturgeon’s Covid-19 shutdown measures on pubs and restaurants;
- The Canary Islands, Mykonos, the Maldives and Denmark were all added to the UK’s list of travel corridors but Alpine tax haven Liechtenstein was removed;
- Hospitals stepped up the cancellation of routine surgery and non-Covid appointments as virus cases rose.
A lockdown involving school closures and stay at home orders can halve the R rate within a month, study finds, but opening schools again can increase it by a quarter
Researchers from the University of Edinburgh studied various government intervention measures on the R rate in 131 different countries
The Scottish researchers examined a variety of measures and how they individually, or in combination with other options, can reduce or raise the rate of infection.
Looking at the measures individually, a ban on public events was associated with the greatest reduction in R, amounting to a 24 per cent reduction after 28 days.
Meanwhile, the measures most strongly associated with an increase in R were lifting bans on gatherings of more than 10 people – seeing a 25 per cent spike in the rate.
The findings, published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal, are based on a modelling analysis, taking into account of measures across 131 countries.
Study author Harish Nair said a combination of measures was the best approach when looking to reduce the rate of transmission for Covid-19.
Looking at the measures individually, a ban on public events was associated with the greatest reduction in R, amounting to a 24 per cent reduction after 28 days
‘As we experience a resurgence of the virus, policymakers will need to consider combinations of measures to reduce the R number.’
He said the findings can be used to inform decisions on whether to introduce or lift various restrictions and when to expect to see them take effect.
|Day 7||Day 14||Day 28|
|Option 1: Ban on public events and gatherings of more than ten||0.94||0.87||0.71|
|Option 2: Workplace closure, ban on public events and gatherings of more than ten||0.84||0.78||0.62|
|Option 3: Workplace closure, ban on public events, gatherings of more than ten people and internal movement limits||0.81||0.76||0.58|
|Option 4: School and workplace closure, ban on public events, ban on gatherings of more than ten people, internal movement limits and stay at home orders||0.65||0.58||0.48|
Individual measures considered included: School closures, workplace closures, public event bans, limit of 10 people mixing, public transport closure, stay at home orders, limits on internal movement and and international travel restrictions.
A ban on public events was associated with the greatest reduction in R at 24 per cent after 28 days, which could be due to the fact they are likely causes of super spreader events and often the first restriction imposed by a country.
Previous studies have found that measures, including school closure, social distancing, and lockdown, could reduce R substantially to near or below 1, but this is the first study to look at the effects on R following the relaxation of these measures.
The analysis included 790 phases from 131 countries and used a model to measure the association between which measures were in place and changes in the R.
The authors used this to estimate the effect up to 28 days on the R of introducing or lifting measures. In addition, they modelled four combinations of measures that could be introduced to tackle the resurgence of SARS-CoV-2.
The combinations included mixtures of each of the individual measures, from a ban on events and limiting gatherings, to what is effectively a full lockdown.
The team found that the least comprehensive package of measures would still reduce R by 29 per cent within 28 days of the measures being imposed.
That is still four per cent more than the most effective individual measure – banning public events such as sport matches and concerts.
In contrast, the most comprehensive package – similar to a lockdown including school closures and limits on movement – would lead to a 52 per cent reduction.
The effect of introducing measures was not immediate; it took an average of 8 days after introducing a measure to see 60 per cent of its effect on reducing the R.
The UK today announced another 21,242 positive coronavirus tests and the deaths of another 189 people due to the virus
The chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, said that numbers are ‘still heading in the wrong direction’ but also admitted Britain’s outbreak appears to be slowing
Researchers found that reopening schools after lockdown could result in a 24 per cent increase in the R rate
Researchers didn’t, or couldn’t consider the impact of other measures linked to certain restrictions – such as hand washing, masks or people following the rules.
For example, although reopening schools was associated with a large increase in R, the researchers said they were unable to account for the impact of class size limits, deep cleaning, social distancing or temperature checks on arrival.
Professor Nair said: ‘We found an increase in R after reopening schools but it is not clear whether the increase is attributable to specific age groups.’
This is because there could be substantial differences in adherence in social distancing measures from one class to another – but they didn’t have the data.
The R rate seems to be levelling off at between 1.3 and 1.5 after a peak of nearly 1.6 early in October
‘Furthermore, more data are needed to understand the specific role of schools in increased Sars-CoV-2 transmission through robust contact tracing,’ he said.
The study authors also did a secondary analysis using Google mobility data, modelling the total visits to workplaces and the total time spent in residential areas.
Thursday: UK confirms 21,242 coronavirus cases and 189 deaths
The UK today announced another 21,242 positive coronavirus tests and the deaths of another 189 people as Sir Patrick Vallance claimed as many as 90,000 could be catching the virus every day.
The chief scientific adviser said that numbers are ‘still heading in the wrong direction’ but also admitted Britain’s outbreak appears to be slowing down.
Official data this afternoon shows that cases are 12 per cent higher than the 18,980 on Thursday last week – the smallest seven-day increase of any day of any day this week – while deaths are up 37 per cent from 138.
Speaking in a TV briefing alongside Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Sir Patrick showed slides that estimated there are somewhere between 22,000 and 90,000 new infections every day in England.
Results indicated that people took some time to adapt their behaviour to comply with workplace closures and stay-at-home requirements, which was similar to the delay between the measures and the effects seen on R – around one to three weeks.
The authors suggest the delay was possibly due to the population taking time to modify their behaviour to adhere to measures.
The researchers also said that some of the greatest effects on R were seen for measures that were more easily implementable by law, like school reopening and introduction of a public events ban.
They suggest this may have been because their effects were more immediate and compliance was easier to ensure.
However, likely low compliance when it comes to bans on gatherings of 10 or more people could explain why that measure saw a minimal impact on the R rate.
Writing in a linked Comment, Professor Chris T Bauch from University of Waterloo, Canada, said despite the imperfections with R, the findings show measures including lockdown do work to reduce the rate.
‘This information is crucial, given that some [measures] have massive socioeconomic effects. In a similar vein, transmission models that project COVID-19 cases and deaths under different scenarios could be highly valuable for optimising a country’s portfolio of [measures], the researcher, not involved in this study explained.
‘The success of large-scale [measures] requires population adherence. R can stimulate populations to act and gives them useful feedback on the fruits of their labour. Perhaps this is one reason that R has entered our vernacular in 2020.’
|Day 7||Day 14||Day 28|
|PUBLIC EVENTS BAN|
|BAN ON GATHERINGS OF MORE THAN 10 PEOPLE|
|PUBLIC TRANSPORT CLOSURE|
|STAY AT HOME ORDERS|
|LIMITS ON INTERNAL MOVEMENTS|
|RESTRICTIONS ON INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL|