BERKELEY, Calif. (KRON) – A new UC Berkeley study finds emergency responses to the global pandemic have been successful in preventing nearly 530-million coronavirus infections across six large countries, including the U.S.
Researchers reviewed the health impacts of policies and preventative measures in those countries from January to the beginning of April.
The findings come as we start to loosen restrictions and open up the economy.
While the policies and emergency response have had very visible economic costs, researchers wanted to also weigh the health benefits, which were harder to see over the last few months.
“In the absence of policy, the growth of this disease is astonishing so on the order of doubling every two days means that the past several months would’ve been essentially unimaginably catastrophic had we not had these policies,” Ian Bolliger said.
Because of the global response to the coronavirus and preventative measures in six major countries, including the U.S., researchers at UC Berkeley say we avoided 530-million coronavirus infections through April 6th.
The study reviewed nearly 2,000 policies implemented in China, South Korea, Italy, Iran, France, and the United States, showing what confirmed cases would’ve looked like if no policies were in place.
As co-author of the new-study, Ian Bolliger explains the number of total infections would’ve been even larger, as not everyone is tested.
“By April 6th, we would’ve seen about 60 million more infections in the US had we not enacted any policy,” Bolliger said.
Continuing policies after April has likely prevented millions more but it’s also had huge economic impacts as a record of more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.
While these costs are very visible, Bolliger says the study’s purpose was to also point out the public health impact.
“It is kind of important to realize the magnitude of this global response that we have seen. It hasn’t been perfect. It hasn’t always been on time. There has been suffering due to that but we’ve never in the history of humankind, I would imagine we’ve never saved as many lives in a shorter period of time as we have,” Bolliger said.
Bolliger says it’ll be important to weigh the impact of policies moving forward as countries and our states respond to the pandemic by either loosening or tightening restrictions.
“There are real costs to these policies so we need to be smart about how we continue to evolve our response to this pandemic. A lockdown for all populations is not a sustainable state of society. It may save lives in the pandemic but it will cost lives in other ways,” Bolliger said.
The research team found that home isolation, business closures and lockdowns had the clearest benefits, whereas travel restrictions and bans had mixed results with large effects in countries like Iran and Italy and less clear benefits in the U.S.
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