New strategies to control Covid pandemic

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Researchers have developed two strategies for Covid while maintaining economic activity

New York [US]: Researchers have developed two strategies, if used together and followed closely could reduce coronavirus transmission by transmission by an amount comparable to that of a strict lockdown, while maintaining economic activity.

A study published Thursday in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal cites how an international team of researchers provided insight into two concepts- dividing groups of interacting people into subgroups that do not interact with each other, and redirecting individuals from crowded locations to alternative, less crowded locations- can reduce the disease transmission. Commonly implemented strategies such as lockdowns or stay-at-home orders involve a significant restriction of economic activities, said the authors of the study comprising researchers from nine institutions and led by Dr Akihiro Nishi, a UCLA assistant professor.

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“In the simulations, we assume that people engage in group activities in multiple sectors (e.g., going to work, going to a local grocery store), where they interact with others in the same group and potentially become infected,” the research paper said.

In the first strategy, each group is divided into two subgroups, for example, a group of customers can only go to the grocery store in the morning, while another separate group of customers can only go in the afternoon. In the second strategy, the researchers balance the number of group members across different groups within the same sector, for example, every grocery store has the same number of customers.

The primary goal of each strategy is to reduce the overall number of direct network ties by reducing contacts between individuals and decreasing transmission of the infectious agent.

“The simulation results show that the dividing group’s strategy substantially reduces transmission, and the joint implementation of the two strategies could effectively bring the spread of transmission under control,” the study said.

To illustrate the potential consequences of these strategies, the study used simulations for the numbers of people who would be susceptible or exposed to the virus, infectious or recovered or the SEIR model, to determine the likely effects of the strategies.

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Researchers tested the strategies by designing a computer model of their impact in a “virtual” version of the real city of Sierra Madre, California.
Both strategies would require active management, which would require public resources, as well as additional space in schools and other public facilities, and businesses accepting reductions in their business hours and customer capacity, researchers said.

They also acknowledged that real-world conditions would disturb some of the conditions they used in computer modelling.

In combination with other measures such as self-isolation and physical distancing, the institution of the two strategies would be effective, the research said.

Once digital contact tracing data of large sections of populations becomes available, network sampling and other techniques should allow for more precise predictions, it said