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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Washington: Travel Bans Slow Spread of COVID-19 But Transmission-reduction Interventions Have Greater Impact, Study Shows

A new study from an international team of experts – including a University of Washington School of Public Health biostatistician – examines the effect of travel restrictions on the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes the respiratory disease now known as the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The study’s modeling found that the travel ban in Wuhan, China, where the virus first emerged, delayed the spread of COVID-19 to other areas of mainland China by three to five days. The travel ban also reduced the number of infections that spread to other countries by nearly 80 percent for two to three weeks, after which the number of cases resumed its growth. The study concluded that while travel restrictions have modest effects on the spread of the virus, transmission-reduction interventions will provide the greatest impact on mitigating the epidemic.

”Travel restrictions alone do not really do much but delay the spread of the disease, and delaying is good because it slows things down. But this idea of reducing the transmissibility is really key,” says study co-author Dr. Elizabeth Halloran, a professor of biostatistics at the UW School of Public Health and director of the Center for Inference and Dynamics of Infectious Diseases based at Fred Hutch.

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