A study published in the Lancet highlights how the non-pharmaceutical interventions (travel restrictions, social distancing, population behavioural change, and contact tracing) taken in China during the first wave of the COVID-19 epidemic contained transmission locally and from imported cases. It also evaluated that premature relaxation of strict measures and found it could lead to a second wave of infections. It did not study the effect and efficacy of each intervention which is paramount for future national strategies. However, some information is available:
- Travel restrictions had a marked effect internationally but only delayed cases by a few days within China.
- Relaxing or extending social distancing in Wuhan showed that if the interventions were relaxed in March, there could be a second wave in the northern hemisphere by mid-summer.
Otherwise, information on the effects of non-pharmaceutical interventions and alternative measures (face masks, temperature checks, and contract tracing) when they are relaxed, is greatly needed.
Finally, the capacities of different healthcare systems must be considered when implementing interventions. The case fatality rate from the disease can vary greatly (from 0.98% to 5.08% in and around Wuhan) depending on how burdened these systems are. Therefore, immediate preparation for a possible second wave of COVID-19 is essential to minimise mortality.