Background: A range of public health measures have been implemented to suppress local transmission of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Hong Kong. We examined the effect of these interventions and behavioural changes of the public on the incidence of COVID-19, as well as on influenza virus infections, which might share some aspects of transmission dynamics with COVID-19.
Methods: We analysed data on laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases, influenza surveillance data in outpatients of all ages, and influenza hospitalisations in children. We estimated the daily effective reproduction number (Rt) for COVID-19 and influenza A H1N1 to estimate changes in transmissibility over time. Attitudes towards COVID-19 and changes in population behaviours were reviewed through three telephone surveys done on Jan 20-23, Feb 11-14, and March 10-13, 2020.
Findings: COVID-19 transmissibility measured by Rt has remained at approximately 1 for 8 weeks in Hong Kong. Influenza transmission declined substantially after the implementation of social distancing measures and changes in population behaviours in late January, with a 44% (95% CI 34-53%) reduction in transmissibility in the community, from an estimated Rt of 1·28 (95% CI 1·26-1·30) before the start of the school closures to 0·72 (0·70-0·74) during the closure weeks. Similarly, a 33% (24-43%) reduction in transmissibility was seen based on paediatric hospitalisation rates, from an Rt of 1·10 (1·06-1·12) before the start of the school closures to 0·73 (0·68-0·77) after school closures. Among respondents to the surveys, 74·5%, 97·5%, and 98·8% reported wearing masks when going out, and 61·3%, 90·2%, and 85·1% reported avoiding crowded places in surveys 1 (n=1008), 2 (n=1000), and 3 (n=1005), respectively.
Interpretation: Our study shows that non-pharmaceutical interventions (including border restrictions, quarantine and isolation, distancing, and changes in population behaviour) were associated with reduced transmission of COVID-19 in Hong Kong, and are also likely to have substantially reduced influenza transmission in early February, 2020.
Funding: Health and Medical Research Fund, Hong Kong.
Copyright © 2020 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an Open Access article under the CC BY 4.0 license. Published by Elsevier Ltd.. All rights reserved.