Coronavirus: Billions of lives have been protected by containment

While everything seems to have been going well for some time, some people feel that all the containment measures that have been imposed on us were unnecessary. However, an article which appeared Monday in Nature shows that the strict confinement to which the populations of most European countries have been subjected has saved more than three million human lives and significantly reduced the transmission of the virus. Despite economists who criticize governments for being alarmist, containment has clearly prevented the slaughter and brought the epidemic to a halt in the countries where it has been established.

Researchers from Imperial College London, UK, who published this article in the journal Nature, estimated the effect of non-pharmacological interventions, such as physical distancing, such as banning gatherings, closing borders and schools, and large-scale confinement of populations, on mortality and the number of new infections the time when European countries began deconfinement. They made their estimates based on the number of deaths – due to COVID-19 – that were recorded in 11 European countries between the time when the containment measures came into effect, between 2 and 29 March depending on the country, and on May 4, the day of the lifting of these measures in Spain and Italy.

They thus noted that the combination of physical distancing measures, and in particular strict confinement, which were applied in these European countries had a substantial effect on the transmission of the virus since they made it possible to reduce significantly, by 82%. , the average number of infections generated by each infected person during their contagious period, ie the Rt, or number of reproduction at time t. The Rt, which was 3.8 at the start of the epidemic in March, fell below 1, or 0.66 on average on May 4. According to the authors, these figures clearly show that the interventions “helped contain the epidemic.”

The researchers also predicted deaths that would have occurred during the same period, March to May 4, if no containment intervention had been put in place. They calculated that the measures applied prevented a total of 3,100,000 deaths in the 11 European countries. They state that they did not take into account in their calculations the overload that the health systems would have suffered under these circumstances, which would then have been unable to offer access to intensive care to all patients who would have needed it. . This suggests that the number of deaths would have been even greater than that which they estimated.

While the Montreal Economic Institute (MEI) questions, in a recent publication, about the real relevance of having imposed from the beginning of the epidemic such severe containment measures, which have been devastating for the economy and society, Benoît Mâsse, professor at the School of Public Health at the University of Montreal, replies that “faced with a new pathogen that we do not know, as was the case with SARS-CoV-2 at the beginning of March when the epidemic started, there was a great human risk “in not implementing strict measures immediately. These measures “may have knocked the economy down, but it will be temporary, there are signs that it will pick up faster than expected”.

“As the effect of a preventive measure does not become apparent until two to three weeks after its implementation, if the measures taken had not been sufficient, it would have cost many human lives, and it would have been very difficult to regain control of the epidemic, as seen in particular in Brazil and Pakistan. Even Sweden, which has been slow to take wide-ranging preventive measures, today doubts its strategy, given that the number of deaths is increasing there, “underlines Mr. Mâsse, who signs an opinion piece published in page A6 with colleagues from McGill, Laval, Toronto and Imperial College London.

“The paradox of preventive measures is that, if they work and they help control the epidemic, it feels like they were not necessary. When we come out of an epidemic, people often wonder if we haven’t done all this for nothing. But ask families who have parents who have been very sick or who have died, they surely don’t think we have done too much! “, Points out Mr. Mâsse.

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