By the time China instituted a ban on travel to and from Wuhan City on Jan. 23, most Chinese cities had already received travelers infected with the coronavirus now known as COVID-19, according to a new study that found the Wuhan travel ban may have only delayed the epidemic’s spread by three to five days in mainland China.
The findings by an international team of infectious disease transmission experts, including Dr. Ira Longini, a professor of biostatistics at the University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions and the UF College of Medicine, appeared March 6 in Science.
“Travel restrictions delay, but do not stop the spread of the virus,” said Dr. Longini, a member of the UF Emerging Pathogens Institute and director of the Center for Statistics and Quantitative Infectious Diseases. “Currently, the most effective nonpharmaceutical intervention is to test for and isolate and treat cases of COVID-19. People who have been in close contact with those who have been infected should be asked to protect others by staying at home, washing their hands frequently and decontaminating surfaces.”
The research team used a global disease transmission model to project the impact of travel limitations on COVID-19’s national and international spread. The tool separates the world into 3,200 subpopulations centered around transportation hubs in 200 cities to model possible epidemic scenarios, and is calibrated to available data on international COVID-19 cases and airline and ground transportation traffic flows.
While the Wuhan travel ban had limited effect on the virus’ spread in China, it did help to slow the international progression by nearly 80 percent until mid-February.Friday Letter Submission, Publish on March 13