As of 28 July 2020, COVID-19 has been responsible for more than 650,000 deaths across the globe. While the world is fighting to come up with a vaccine, physical distancing is still being considered as the only way to prevent the spread of the disease. The objective of this study is to draw associations between physical distancing interventions and the incidence of COVID-19.

This research is a natural experiment conducted using interrupted time series analysis, with results processed using meta-analysis. The study included 149 countries or regions with data on daily reported cases of COVID-19. The participants were individual countries or regions that implemented at least one of the five physical distancing interventions like (closures of offices, educational institutions, and public transport, limitations on mass gatherings and public events, and confining public movement (lockdowns)) between 1 January and 30 May 2020.

It was noticed that the implementation of any physical distancing intervention resulted in an overall reduction of COVID-19 incidence by 13%. The closure of public transport was not linked with any decrease in COVID-19 frequency when the other physical distancing measures (closure of workplace, schools, malls, mass gatherings) were in place. Quicker implementation of lockdown after other physical distancing interventions lead to an additional reduction of COVID-19 incidence.

The research concluded that physical distancing interventions were associated with reductions in the incidence of COVID-19 across the globe. Earlier implementation of lockdown was associated with a more significant decrease in COVID-19 incidence.

Ref: https://www.bmj.com/content/370/bmj.m2743