Background: With its epicenter in Wuhan, China, the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the World Health Organization (WHO). Consequently, many countries have implemented flight restrictions to China. China itself has imposed a lockdown of the population of Wuhan as well as the entire Hubei province. However, whether these two enormous measures have led to significant changes in the spread of COVID-19 cases remains unclear.
Methods: We analyzed the available data on the development of confirmed domestic and international COVID-19 cases before and after lockdown measures. We evaluated the correlation of domestic air traffic to the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and determined the growth curves of COVID-19 cases within China before and after lockdown as well as after changes in COVID-19 diagnostic criteria.
Results: Our findings indicate a significant increase in doubling time from 2 days (95% CI: 1.9-2.6) to 4 days (95% CI: 3.5-4.3), after imposing lockdown. A further increase is detected after changing diagnostic and testing methodology to 19.3 (95% CI: 15.1-26.3), respectively. Moreover, the correlation between domestic air traffic and COVID-19 spread became weaker following lockdown (before lockdown: r = 0.98, P < 0.05 vs after lockdown: r = 0.91, P = NS).
Conclusions: A significantly decreased growth rate and increased doubling time of cases was observed, which is most likely due to Chinese lockdown measures. A more stringent confinement of people in high risk areas seems to have a potential to slow down the spread of COVID-19.
Keywords: COVID-19; Pandemic; coronavirus; effective; measures; spread.
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