Relaxing social distancing rules and lifting coronavirus closures in Wuhan, China — where the outbreak emerged — too soon could fuel a second wave of infections, according to a new study.
Earlier this week, the Central Chinese city of Wuhan started to come back to life again as residents began to leave their homes, walk the streets, shop at grocery stores and use public transportation.
The COVID-19 outbreak, which has now become a global pandemic, first appeared in the city in December — with officials enforcing a strict lockdown to curb the spread as the infection and death tolls quickly rose.
The coronavirus epicenter has since moved to Italy, with the US not far behind, as China reports a dwindling number of new cases.
But a new study, published in the Lancet Public Health journal, suggests that things should not go back to normal in Wuhan just yet.
Lifting the lockdown now might spur a second wave of infections to crop up by late August, according to the analysis.
Keeping the measures in effect until April could delay the second peak until October, researchers argue, allowing health care workers an opportunity to regroup — a move that would likely save many lives.
“The city now needs to be really careful to avoid prematurely lifting physical distancing measures, because that could lead to an earlier secondary peak in cases,” Kiesha Prem, a specialist at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), who co-led the research, told Reuters.
“If they relax the restrictions gradually, this is likely to both delay and flatten the peak.”
The researchers conducted the study by using mathematical modeling to simulate either extending or relaxing school and workplace closures in Wuhan, which is home to 11 million people.
A total of 81,782 coronavirus cases and 3,291 deaths have been reported in China so far since the start of the outbreak, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Worldwide, there have been more than 526,000 cases and at least 23,700 deaths as of Thursday evening.
With Post wires
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