Governments have tried various strategies against the coronavirus. But what measures were most effective at preventing new infections? Two recent studies attempted to provide an answer.

Oxford Study Looks at Public Life in 41 Countries to Find out What Works in Fighting COVID

Governments around the world have taken drastic measures to prevent further infections with the coronavirus. There are hardly any areas of life that are not affected by closures or restrictions.

Oxford University scientists conducted an extensive study of public life in 41 countries to find out what works in preventing the spread of COVID. The study also looks at the actions taken against the pandemic in the spring.

A ban on gathering for more than ten people and the closure of schools and universities from January to May were likely the most effective measures to contain the corona pandemic, according to the study. The closing of all shops except the essential ones had only a moderate effect and the requirement to stay at home had a little additional effect.

How Was the Oxford Study Done?

To conduct their research, the scientists looked at the number of cases and the number of people who died of Covid-19.

Using a computer model, they put these figures in relation to individual measures taken against the disease’s spread, such as those taken in 34 European and seven non-European countries. The researchers measured the effectiveness by reducing the reproductive number R, which was 3.3 without government intervention.

The fact that the individual measures were decided at different times in the different countries helped the researchers calculate the individual regulations’ efficacy. Since schools and universities were closed simultaneously in almost all countries, the effect of these measures could not be calculated individually, but only as an additional effect.

How the Oxford Study Judges Efficacy

The study describes a measure as “very effective” if the calculated median value for reducing the number of reproductions is over 35 percent. This is the case with the ban on gathering for more than ten people and the closure of schools and universities.

There are significant differences between countries. As a result, the effect of the ban on assemblies is in the range of 17 to 60 percent, and the case of schools and universities being closed in the range of 16 to 54 percent.

The forced closings were moderately effective for everyone except essential businesses (27 percent).

The effect of the requirement to leave the house only for a few permitted activities could not be determined individually. As an additional measure to the others mentioned, their effect was only 13 percent.

There were also moderate effects from the assembly bans for more than 100 people (34 percent) and more than 1,000 people (23 percent). The same applies to the closing of facilities that are considered high-risk regarding the pandemic, such as gyms, nightclubs, cinemas, and restaurants (18 percent).

Additional Study Highlights Danger of Eating Out

Meanwhile, a different French study has now also given clear insights into the matter. According to a study by the Pasteur Institute in Paris, socializing with guests for dinner increases the likelihood of infection, as does staying in a restaurant or bar.

The study confirms assumptions that eating together carries a higher risk than, for example, using public transport or shopping.

The scientists examined which factors differentiated infected people from those who had not been infected with the coronavirus. To do this, they compared the test persons’ statements with regard to professions, means of transport, and places visited. In total, the researchers surveyed around 3,400 people who had contracted the virus and 1,700 people without a coronavirus infection.

Health authorities worldwide advise against meeting in crowded indoor spaces — numerous government-imposed measures such as the closure of restaurants, bars, and gyms. Scientists increasingly agree that the new virus is spread via fine particle clouds, so-called aerosols, and this happens above all in poorly-ventilated rooms.