Association of Public Health Interventions With the Epidemiology of the COVID-19 Outbreak in Wuhan, China

JAMA. 2020 May 19;323(19):1915-1923. doi: 10.1001/jama.2020.6130.


Importance: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has become a pandemic, and it is unknown whether a combination of public health interventions can improve control of the outbreak.

Objective: To evaluate the association of public health interventions with the epidemiological features of the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan by 5 periods according to key events and interventions.

Design, setting, and participants: In this cohort study, individual-level data on 32 583 laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases reported between December 8, 2019, and March 8, 2020, were extracted from the municipal Notifiable Disease Report System, including patients' age, sex, residential location, occupation, and severity classification.

Exposures: Nonpharmaceutical public health interventions including cordons sanitaire, traffic restriction, social distancing, home confinement, centralized quarantine, and universal symptom survey.

Main outcomes and measures: Rates of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 infections (defined as the number of cases per day per million people), across age, sex, and geographic locations were calculated across 5 periods: December 8 to January 9 (no intervention), January 10 to 22 (massive human movement due to the Chinese New Year holiday), January 23 to February 1 (cordons sanitaire, traffic restriction and home quarantine), February 2 to 16 (centralized quarantine and treatment), and February 17 to March 8 (universal symptom survey). The effective reproduction number of SARS-CoV-2 (an indicator of secondary transmission) was also calculated over the periods.

Results: Among 32 583 laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases, the median patient age was 56.7 years (range, 0-103; interquartile range, 43.4-66.8) and 16 817 (51.6%) were women. The daily confirmed case rate peaked in the third period and declined afterward across geographic regions and sex and age groups, except for children and adolescents, whose rate of confirmed cases continued to increase. The daily confirmed case rate over the whole period in local health care workers (130.5 per million people [95% CI, 123.9-137.2]) was higher than that in the general population (41.5 per million people [95% CI, 41.0-41.9]). The proportion of severe and critical cases decreased from 53.1% to 10.3% over the 5 periods. The severity risk increased with age: compared with those aged 20 to 39 years (proportion of severe and critical cases, 12.1%), elderly people (≥80 years) had a higher risk of having severe or critical disease (proportion, 41.3%; risk ratio, 3.61 [95% CI, 3.31-3.95]) while younger people (<20 years) had a lower risk (proportion, 4.1%; risk ratio, 0.47 [95% CI, 0.31-0.70]). The effective reproduction number fluctuated above 3.0 before January 26, decreased to below 1.0 after February 6, and decreased further to less than 0.3 after March 1.

Conclusions and relevance: A series of multifaceted public health interventions was temporally associated with improved control of the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, China. These findings may inform public health policy in other countries and regions.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Betacoronavirus*
  • COVID-19
  • Child
  • China / epidemiology
  • Communicable Disease Control / methods*
  • Communicable Disease Control / statistics & numerical data
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Coronavirus Infections / prevention & control
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Disease Transmission, Infectious / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Health Policy
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics / prevention & control*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / prevention & control
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Young Adult