By Kate Kelland

LONDON (Reuters) – A key modeling study from Singapore has found that putting multiple social lockdowns in place – including school closures – will have the biggest impact on curbing COVID-19, the pandemic disease caused by the new coronavirus.

Quarantining infected people and their family members, closing schools, and imposing workplace distancing and homeworking can all limit the spread, the study found, but a combination of all three is most effective in reducing cases.

The global number of confirmed cases passed 377,000 across 194 countries and territories as of 0200 GMT on Tuesday, according to a Reuters tally, with more than 16,500 reported deaths.

Singapore, which according to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) data had reported 455 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and two deaths as of March 22, has imposed some social distancing recommendations but has not closed its schools.

Elsewhere, millions of children have seen their schools closed in the United States, across much of Europe and in many other countries as governments have imposed strict social lockdown measures to stop people meeting and mingling in groups.

Published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases journal, the study, conducted by researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS), looked at a simulated Singapore setting to analyze the potential impact of social distancing policies.

It found that while less effective than the combined three-pronged approach, quarantine plus workplace measures presented the next best option for reducing COVID-19 cases, followed by quarantine plus school closure, and then quarantine only.

“The results of this study provide policy makers in Singapore and other countries with evidence to begin the implementation of enhanced outbreak control measures that could mitigate or reduce local transmission rates if deployed effectively and in a timely manner,” said Alex R Cook, an associate professor at NUS who co-led the work.

(Reporting by Kate Kelland, editing by Ed Osmond)