Background: As of March 18, 2020, 13 415 confirmed cases and 120 deaths related to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in mainland China, outside Hubei province-the epicentre of the outbreak-had been reported. Since late January, massive public health interventions have been implemented nationwide to contain the outbreak. We provide an impact assessment of the transmissibility and severity of COVID-19 during the first wave in mainland Chinese locations outside Hubei.
Methods: We estimated the instantaneous reproduction number (Rt) of COVID-19 in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Wenzhou, and the ten Chinese provinces that had the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases; and the confirmed case-fatality risk (cCFR) in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Wenzhou, and all 31 Chinese provinces. We used a susceptible-infectious-recovered model to show the potential effects of relaxing containment measures after the first wave of infection, in anticipation of a possible second wave.
Findings: In all selected cities and provinces, the Rt decreased substantially since Jan 23, when control measures were implemented, and have since remained below 1. The cCFR outside Hubei was 0·98% (95% CI 0·82-1·16), which was almost five times lower than that in Hubei (5·91%, 5·73-6·09). Relaxing the interventions (resulting in Rt >1) when the epidemic size was still small would increase the cumulative case count exponentially as a function of relaxation duration, even if aggressive interventions could subsequently push disease prevalence back to the baseline level.
Interpretation: The first wave of COVID-19 outside of Hubei has abated because of aggressive non-pharmaceutical interventions. However, given the substantial risk of viral reintroduction, particularly from overseas importation, close monitoring of Rt and cCFR is needed to inform strategies against a potential second wave to achieve an optimal balance between health and economic protection.
Funding: Health and Medical Research Fund, Hong Kong, China.
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