Strict lockdowns managed to reduce COVID-19 transmission and prevented more than three million deaths in 11 European countries, according to a new study.
Research by Imperial College London, whose scientists are advising the British government on the virus, found that restrictions such as stay-at-home orders worked to bring the spread of the coronavirus under control.More: Coronavirus: All you need to know about the symptoms and risks How does coronavirus spread and how can you protect yourself? Coronavirus: Which countries have confirmed new cases?
They estimated that approximately 3.1 million deaths were averted by policies in Germany, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Spain, Belgium, Austria, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.
Using European Centre of Disease Control data on deaths in those 11 nations in the period up to May 4, the scientists compared the number of observed deaths in the countries with those predicted by their model if no restrictions had been imposed.
Researchers also calculated that the interventions caused the reproduction number to drop by an average of 82 percent, to below one.
The reproduction number is used to define how many people someone with the virus infects.
"Our results show that major non-pharmaceutical interventions, and lockdown in particular, have had a large effect on reducing transmission," the authors said in the study that was published in Nature Research.
"Continued intervention should be considered to keep transmission of SARS-CoV-2 under control."'Up to 15 million infected'
The researchers estimated, if no measures were taken, cumulatively between 12 and 15 million people had been infected in early May in the 11 nations, which corresponds to between 3.2-4 percent of their population.
This fluctuated significantly between countries, with only 710,000 people in Germany thought to have caught the virus, or 0.85 percent of the population.
That compares with Belgium, with the highest infection rate of the countries at 8 percent, and Spain, where some 5.5 percent of the population, or 2.6 million people, were estimated to have been infected.
The authors said since interventions such as restrictions on public events and school closures were imposed in quick succession, it is difficult to tease out the effect of each one separately.
However, they found that lockdown measures taken as a whole did have an identifiable and "substantial" effect, reducing transmission by an estimated 81 percent.