Do Public Health Measures Like Social Distancing Reduce the Spread of COVID-19?
BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE:
During the COVID-19 pandemic, various public health interventions such as lockdowns, masking, and social distancing have been used
Talic et al. (BMJ, 2021) performed a systematic review of the evidence on the effectiveness of individual and multiple public health measures in reducing the incidence of COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2 transmission, and mortality
Systematic review and meta-analysis
Study inclusion criteria
Observational and interventional studies
Studies that assessed the effectiveness of public health measures
Random effects meta-analysis was performed to investigate the effect of mask wearing, handwashing, and physical distancing measures on the primary outcome
Pooled effect estimates with corresponding 95% confidence intervals were computed
Heterogeneity among studies was also assessed
Incidence of COVID-19
Incidence of SARS-CoV-2 transmission
Evaluated individual public health measures: 35
Evaluated multiple public health measures: 37
A nonsignificant reduction in the incidence of COVID-19 was associated with
Pooled analysis RR 0.47 (95% CI, 0.19 to 1.12); I2=12%
There was a significant reduction in COVID-19 with
RR 0.47 (95% CI, 0.29 to 0.75); I2=84%
RR 0.75 (95% CI, 0.59 to 0.95); I2=87%
Owing to heterogeneity of the studies, meta-analysis was not possible for
Quarantine and isolation
Closures of borders, schools, and workplaces
Public health measures like handwashing, mask wearing and physical distancing were associated with reduced incidence of COVID-19
The authors recognize limitations including confounding and measurement bias, for example
Type of face mask, (e.g., surgical, fabric, N95 respirators), compliance and frequency of use could not be assessed due to lack of data
Social distancing could not be precisely measured and policies differed regarding minimal distance requirement
The authors state
Current evidence from quantitative analyses indicates a benefit associated with handwashing, mask wearing, and physical distancing in reducing the incidence of covid-19
The narrative results of this review indicate an effectiveness of both individual or packages of public health measures on the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and incidence of covid-19
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