Published On: Tue, Jun 23rd, 2020

Social distancing and using face masks could prevent a second COVID-19 wave

Barcelona: New Spanish research has found that maintaining the interventions implemented during the COVID-19 confinements, such as social distancing and wearing face masks, could help prevent a second wave of infections and the need for more lockdowns.

A sign requesting people stay two metres apart is displayed in Kingston upon Thames, south west London, Monday, June 22, 2020. The two-metre social distancing rule will be under review as the UK relax coronavirus lockdown measures implemented to stem the spread of the virus. (AP Photo)

Carried out by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), an institution supported by the ‘la Caixa’ Foundation, the new study made projections on how a second wave could be prevented based on a model that divides the people in a population into seven groups: susceptible, quarantined, exposed, infectious not detected, reported infectious and confined, recovered and dead.

The researchers applied their model to a range of countries including Spain, New Zealand, Japan, the United States, Indonesia, and Argentina, which had all dealt with and been affected by the virus differently.

The findings, published in Nature Human Behaviour, showed that the length of the first confinement will affect the timing and extent of any subsequent waves and suggested that lockdowns should remain in place for at least 60 days to prevent the epidemic growing as well as a second, larger wave within the next few months.

The researchers add that gradually lifting lockdowns will also result in a lower number of infections and deaths, rather than suddenly releasing a large part of the population. For example, not all workers should return to work at the same time, and those who are more vulnerable to the virus should continue to try to stay home.

Two women covering face masks sit outside a take away only coffee shop in London, Tuesday, June 23, 2020. (AP Photo)

However, the researchers point out that individual behavior is also key for preventing a second wave, and that methods such as social distancing, hand hygiene, and using face masks could potentially remove the need for future lockdowns, even in countries that do not have the resources to test and trace all COVID-19 cases and contacts.

“If we manage to reduce transmission rate by 30 percent through the use of face masks, hand hygiene and social distancing, we can considerably reduce the magnitude of the next wave. Reducing transmission rate by 50 percent could avoid it completely,” says Xavier Rodó, head of ISGlobal’s Climate and Health program.


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