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Piovani D, Christodoulou MN, Hadjidemetriou A, Pantavou K, Zaza P, Bagos PG, Bonovas S, Nikolopoulos GK. Effect of early application of social distancing interventions on COVID-19 mortality over the first pandemic wave: An analysis of longitudinal data from 37 countries. J Infect. 2020 Dec 1:S0163-4453(20)30751-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jinf.2020.11.033. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33275956; PMCID: PMC7706420.

Objectives: To estimate the effect of early application of social distancing interventions on Covid-19 cumulative mortality during the first pandemic wave.

Methods: Ecological longitudinal study using multivariable negative binomial regression for panel data. Daily numbers of Covid-19 cases and deaths, and data on social distancing interventions, for the 37 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) were analysed.

Results: Covid-19 cumulative mortality over the first pandemic wave varied widely across countries (range, 4.16 to 855 deaths per million population). On average, one-day delay in application of mass gatherings ban was associated with an adjusted increase in Covid-19 cumulative mortality by 6.97% (95% CI, 3.45 to 10.5), whilst a one-day delay in school closures was associated with an increase of 4.37% (95% CI, 1.58 to 7.17) over the study period. We estimated that if each country had enacted both interventions one week earlier, Covid-19 cumulative mortality could have been reduced by an average of 44.1% (95% CI, 20.2 to 67.9).

Conclusions: Early application of mass gatherings ban and school closures in outbreak epicentres was associated with an important reduction in Covid-19 cumulative mortality during the first pandemic wave. These findings may support policy decision making

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