In a new study, researchers found that a combination of robust vaccination programs and strict physical distancing rules could avoid recurring peaks of COVID-19 without the need to rely on stay-at-home restrictions.
The research was conducted by a team at the University of Southampton and elsewhere.
In the study, the team used mobile phone geolocation data with coronavirus case data from China to model the potential impact of vaccination and physical distancing on virus transmission.
They predicted that in most cities, vaccination programs and physical distancing combined will be enough to contain virus resurgence without the need to greatly restrict population mobility.
Cities with medium and high-density populations will need both vaccination and distancing to prevent future intense waves of COVID-19 until herd immunity is reached.
Cities with low populations and effective vaccination could fully interrupt transmission without the need for physical distancing.
In all cities, full ‘stay-at-home’ lockdowns would no longer be necessary.
The team’s results also suggest strong physical distancing interventions implemented for short periods of time may be more effective than mild, longer-term ones.
The research provides a framework and set of outputs that can be used by policy-makers and public health authorities to identify appropriate levels of intervention to keep COVID-19 outbreaks in check over time.
Although the study was based on data from China, our methods and findings are applicable to cities worldwide with similar levels of population density and social contact patterns.
One author of the study is spatial epidemiologist Dr. Shengjie Lai.
The study is published in Nature Human Behaviour.
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