Motivated by the rapid spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in mainland China, we use a global metapopulation disease transmission model to project the impact of travel limitations on the national and international spread of the epidemic. The model is calibrated on the basis of internationally reported cases and shows that, at the start of the travel ban from Wuhan on 23 January 2020, most Chinese cities had already received many infected travelers. The travel quarantine of Wuhan delayed the overall epidemic progression by only 3 to 5 days in mainland China but had a more marked effect on the international scale, where case importations were reduced by nearly 80% until mid-February. Modeling results also indicate that sustained 90% travel restrictions to and from mainland China only modestly affect the epidemic trajectory unless combined with a 50% or higher reduction of transmission in the community.
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