This Is How Many People Lockdowns Saved From Coronavirus, Study Says

Here's proof social distancing and stay-at-home orders slowed the spread of COVID-19.

At some point during the pandemic, you probably caught yourself wondering if being in quarantine and abiding by bizarre safety guidelines was actually making a difference in curbing the spread of the coronavirus. With the social and economic strain stay-at-home orders put the country through these last several months, it's natural to ask yourself, "Was it all worth it?" Well, a new research paper from the University of California, Berkeley, confirms that, yes, it absolutely was—because without these policies, there could have been 60 million more COVID-19 cases.

"Our results suggest that ongoing anti-contagion policies have already substantially reduced the number of COVID-19 infections observed in the world today," the study authors wrote in their research, published in the journal Nature.

The authors estimated that across six countries—China, South Korea, Italy, Iran, France, and the United States—interventions like travel restrictions, lockdowns, and social distancing prevented or delayed an estimated 62 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, which translates to averting a total of about 530 million infections.


Setting out to determine the effect of "large-scale anti-contagion policies on the COVID-19 pandemic," the researches first compiled data on 1,717 local, regional, and national non-pharmaceutical interventions deployed in the six aforementioned countries. They then applied "reduced-form econometric techniques" typically used to measure the effects of events on economic growth, finding that without government intervention policies, early daily infection rates would have increased, on average, by 5 percent in all six counties—causing the number of cases to double at a rate of about 48 hours.

Basing their predictions on the results of the data simulation and forecasting models, the paper's authors estimated that in the U.S. alone, there would be 4.8 million more confirmed cases (60 million total infections) of coronavirus had the country not taken the various lockdown measures and safety precautions it did over the course of the pandemic. The researchers also estimated an additional 37 million cases (285 million total infections) in China, 11.5 million (38 million total infections) in South Korea, 2.1 million (49 million total infections) in Italy, 5 million (54 million total infections) in Iran, and 1.4 million (45 million total infections) in France.

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While the study authors note that the "actual" effects of these intervention policies are unknown, they say their data-based estimates contain a level of accuracy that makes them highly useful in future decision-making.

"These findings may help inform whether or when these policies should be deployed, intensified, or lifted," they wrote. "They can support decision-making in the other 180-plus countries where COVID-19 has been reported." And for more on where coronavirus cases seem to be slowing down, check out All the States That Had No Coronavirus Deaths Last Week.

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