The pandemic response measures implemented by six countries averted more than 500 million COVID-19 infections, according to researchers from the University of California, Berkeley.
The study looked at 1717 local, regional, and national non-pharmaceutical interventions deployed in China, South Korea, Italy, Iran, France, and the United States from January to April 6.
It found that the policies — such as lockdowns and business closures — have had “large, beneficial, and measurable health outcomes”, and prevented roughly 530m COVID-19 infections during the research period.
Berkeley’s Global Policy Laboratory director and the lead author of the paper, Solomon Hsiang, said each day the policies have been in place have made, and continue to make, a “profound difference”.
“I don’t think any human endeavour has ever saved so many lives in such a short period of time,” he said.
“By using science and cooperating, we changed the course of history.”
The report estimated that since the coronavirus emerged late last year, infections were growing at an exponential rate of roughly 38% per day until anti-contagion policies were implemented.
The policies took an estimated three weeks to achieve their full impact on the spread of the virus, with the most successful being staying at home, business closures, and lockdowns. It was unclear whether school closures had an impact in any of the six countries, the report noted.
The study concluded that the policies “significantly and substantially” slowed the pandemic, with China having averted roughly 285m total cases, South Korea preventing 38m cases, Italy avoiding 49m, Iran avoiding 54m, France preventing 45m, and the US averting 60m total cases.
Last month Australia’s chief medical officer, Brendan Murphy, told the Senate COVID-19 inquiry that Australia’s pandemic policies — including social-distancing measures, border restrictions, and widespread testing — had avoided about 14,000 deaths.
Back in March, the deputy CMO Paul Kelly estimated that the federal government was prepared for Australia to have between 50,000 and 150,000 deaths, with 5-15m total infections.
Australia has had a total of 7265 confirmed cases and 102 deaths.