The photo has been used for illustrative purpose.
Research by Imperial College London, whose scientists are advising the British government on the virus, found that restrictions such as stay-at-home orders had worked to bring the epidemic under control.
A woman rides a bicycle as she crosses Teatralnaya square in front of the Bolshoi theatre. AFP
Using European Centre of Disease Control data on deaths in 11 nations in the period up to May 4, they compared the number of observed deaths in the countries against those predicted by their model if no restrictions had been imposed.
They estimated that approximately 3.1 million deaths had been averted by the policies.
Researchers also calculated that the interventions had caused the reproduction number − how many people someone with the virus infects − to drop by an average of 82 per cent, to below 1.0.
A young couple wearing face masks sits on a bench in downtown Moscow during a strict lockdown in Russia. AFP
“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, published in Nature Research.
“Continued intervention should be considered to keep transmission of SARS-CoV-2 under control.”
The researchers estimated that cumulatively between 12 and 15 million people had been infected in the period − or between 3.2 and four per cent of the population of the 11 nations. This fluctuated significantly between countries, with only 710,000 people in Germany thought to have caught the virus, or 0.85 per cent of the population.
That compares with Belgium, with the highest infection rate of the countries at eight per cent, and Spain, where some 5.5 per cent of the population, or 2.6 million people, were estimated to have been infected.
The authors said that 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.
But they found that lockdown measures taken as a whole did have an identifiable and “substantial” effect, reducing transmission by an estimated 81 per cent. The 11 nations were: Germany, France, Italy, Britain, Spain, Belgium, Austria, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.
The authors acknowledged that one limitation of their model was that it assumes each measure had the same effect on all countries, whereas in reality “there was variation in how effective lockdown was in different countries.”
In a separate study, also published in Nature, researchers from UC Berkeley used a different method − econometric modelling used to assess how policies affect economic growth − to evaluate containment policies in China, South Korea, Italy, Iran, France and the United States.
“We are seeing a roughly similar pattern everywhere — I suspect we have more immunity than estimated,” Professor Karol Sikora, who previously directed the WHO’s cancer programme, said.
It is the latest grim milestone after the novel coronavirus surfaced in central China in December 2019 and went on to infect more than 139 million people, leaving billions more under crippling lockdowns and ravaging the global economy.
World Health Organisation (WHO) emergencies head urged countries not to make schools into a political football, saying schools could safely reopen once the virus had been suppressed.
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