In DepthInfectious Diseases

Can China's COVID-19 strategy work elsewhere?

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Science  06 Mar 2020:
Vol. 367, Issue 6482, pp. 1061-1062
DOI: 10.1126/science.367.6482.1061

Summary

A new report confirms drops in the spread of COVID-19 in China and contends that the effective response there could inform other countries. But critics say the report failed to acknowledge the human rights costs of the most severe measures imposed by China's authoritarian government: massive lockdowns and electronic surveillance of millions of people. The report was jointly written by an international team of scientists, organized by the World Health Organization, who toured five cities in China with colleagues from that country to better understand the COVID-19 epidemic there. Using the country's massive data set about cases, the report offers many insights about the severity of the disease and how it affects different age groups and people with underlying health problems. It concludes that efforts to contain the virus in Hubei province prevented potentially hundreds of thousands of cases in other provinces. A key feature was the lockdown in many cities in Hubei, which restricted much of the transmission to households, where the virus eventually burned out. Many public health and legal experts questioned whether these stringent strategies would work elsewhere and noted the downsides to mandatory quarantines and the intensive surveillance done by governments.

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