Can travel limits hold back a pandemic?

Airport workers wear face masks at China’s Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport. (UN News Photo / Jing Zhang)

Comparisons of the real-world spread of the COV-19 coronavirus with computer models indicate that the travel restrictions imposed by authorities in China and other nations have delayed the progress of the outbreak by a matter of days or weeks.

The models suggest that the best way to mitigate the epidemic isn’t through travel restrictions, but through early detection, public health interventions and behavioral changes.

The open-access findings were published today by the journal Science, by a research team including scientists from the U.S., Italy and China.

Elizabeth Halloran, a biostatistician who works at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington, is a member of the team. She told GeekWire that the right public health strategies will give researchers more of an opportunity to develop diagnostics for COVID-19 infections as well as the signs of past infection.

“The early detection and isolation of cases, quarantine and social distancing are the bedrock of good public health practice in an outbreak,” Halloran said in an email to GeekWire. “They will slow things down, gaining time for better preparation.”

Get the full story on GeekWire.

By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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