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The impact of relaxing interventions on human contact patterns and SARS-CoV-2 transmission in China

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Science Advances  07 May 2021:
Vol. 7, no. 19, eabe2584
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abe2584


Nonpharmaceutical interventions to control SARS-CoV-2 spread have been implemented with different intensity, timing, and impact on transmission. As a result, post-lockdown COVID-19 dynamics are heterogeneous and difficult to interpret. We describe a set of contact surveys performed in four Chinese cities (Wuhan, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Changsha) during the pre-pandemic, lockdown and post-lockdown periods to quantify changes in contact patterns. In the post-lockdown period, the mean number of contacts increased by 5 to 17% as compared to the lockdown period. However, it remains three to seven times lower than its pre-pandemic level sufficient to control SARS-CoV-2 transmission. We find that the impact of school interventions depends nonlinearly on the intensity of other activities. When most community activities are halted, school closure leads to a 77% decrease in the reproduction number; in contrast, when social mixing outside of schools is at pre-pandemic level, school closure leads to a 5% reduction in transmission.

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