An important new article appeared today on the website of the elite science journal Nature:
Governments around the world are responding to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic1 with unprecedented policies designed to slow the growth rate of infections. Many actions, such as closing schools and restricting populations to their homes, impose large and visible costs on society, but their benefits cannot be directly observed and are currently understood only through process-based simulations2–4. Here, we compile new data on 1,717 local, regional, and national non-pharmaceutical interventions deployed in the ongoing pandemic across localities in China, South Korea, Italy, Iran, France, and the United States (US). We then apply reduced-form econometric methods, commonly used to measure the effect of policies on economic growth5,6, to empirically evaluate the effect that these anti-contagion policies have had on the growth rate of infections. In the absence of policy actions, we estimate that early infections of COVID-19 exhibit exponential growth rates of roughly 38% per day. We find that anti-contagion policies have significantly and substantially slowed this growth. Some policies have different impacts on different populations, but we obtain consistent evidence that the policy packages now deployed are achieving large, beneficial, and measurable health outcomes. We estimate that across these six countries, interventions prevented or delayed on the order of 62 million confirmed cases, corresponding to averting roughly 530 million total infections. These findings may help inform whether or when these policies should be deployed, intensified, or lifted, and they can support decision-making in the other 180+ countries where COVID-19 has been reported7.
Here is a short article about the study in the Berkeley News, published by the University of California at Berkeley: