Over the past six months, an astounding number of studies and reports have been produced addressing practically all possible aspects of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the disease it causes, COVID-19. A search of Google Scholar for “COVID-19” generates over 1.2 million results. This brief does not attempt comprehensively to review that body of work. Instead, it draws upon what we believe are some of the more relevant studies and data in an attempt to provide an overview of some of the more compelling lessons that can reasonably be drawn regarding the effectiveness of different approaches that have been taken to prevent, contain and mitigate COVID-19.
The report begins with a brief review of evidence regarding policies undertaken to address the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-19. Part 2 considers the policies implemented by jurisdictions that rapidly brought COVID-19 under control. Part 3 compares and contrasts policies undertaken by a range of different jurisdictions to contain COVID-19 once it has spread. Finally, Part 4 draws some tentative conclusions.
The evidence shows that quick action to identify infections and encourage and assist response were most crucial to limiting the spread of SARS-CoV-2, reducing the incidence of COVID-19, and limiting the effect on this economy. Jurisdictions that failed to act quickly have generally experienced much more severe outbreaks—and worse economic outcomes. However, as the contrasting experiences of Veneto and Lombardy, Germany and the U.K., and San Francisco and New York show, there is very substantial variation in outcomes even between these jurisdictions.
Some of these differences in outcome likely relate to the extent of connections to other jurisdictions with significant COVID-19 outbreaks, as well as local population density, and (related to population density) the presence of urban mass transit systems. But there is little doubt that much of the variation in outcomes is due to the effectiveness of their systems to contain clusters.
This brief is part of a series: Strategies for Combating and Recovering From the Coronavirus Pandemic.