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Social distancing measures are effective, says study


By Peta Fraser

Research undertaken and released by The University of Western Australia has confirmed that social distancing measures are highly effective in helping prevent the spread of Covid-19.

The study confirmed that self-isolation and a 70% reduction in community-wide contact – which is defined as any social contact outside of school, work or home – were the two most proactive and effective ways to reduce the spread of the virus.

Computer modelling was utilized to evaluate and forecast the impacts of social distancing measures and determine which measures would be the most proactive in reducing the number of cases.

Research leader Professor George Milne, from UWA’s School of Computer Science and Software Engineering, said that measures social distancing could be further strengthened.

“Given we assumed that only cases are isolated, not the whole family, there is scope to increase the effectiveness of that strategy,” Professor Milne said.

In Professor’s opinion, school closure is the least effective single social distancing measure and it is highly disruptive as adults needed to care for younger children. 

“Its moderate effectiveness arises from our assumption that children still have contact in the wider community when schools are closed,” he said.

“This suggests that combining school closure with even a 30% reduction in community-wide contact will be significantly more effective.”

Researchers found that both the timing and strength of social distancing measures had a substantial effect in reducing the number of infections in a pandemic situation.

Professor Milne said the timing of activation of social distancing measures was a challenge facing public health authorities, balancing what needed to be done with what was feasible, and this would vary between countries.

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