Strict policies to combat COVID-19 can provide long-term health benefits

Vaccines may be the first line of defense against coronavirus with severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS-CoV-2). The coronavirus disease pandemic (COVID-19) was declared one in March 2020; however, the restrictive measures were not widely applied until several months after this declaration. Eventually, most governments around the world have declared blockades in states and states and imposed tough anti-infection policies such as camouflage and physical distancing to limit levels of infection.

study: The short- and medium-term impact of stringent anti-infection policies on mortality outside COVID-19 in China. Image credit: Chansom Pantip /


The key to assessing the impact on the well-being of infection control policies is to examine their short-term and long-term effects on public health. Numerous studies have shown that strict physical distancing and restrictions on human mobility can effectively control the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and ultimately prevent deaths. However, the effectiveness of such interventions and their impact on patterns of disease and death from other causes remains controversial.

According to one theory, measures such as blocking could harm the overall health of the population in the short term, as restrictions on human mobility would reduce access to health services. In addition, business constraints can lead to severe economic disruptions and mass layoffs, thus having a significant impact on economies.

In contrast, theories in support of these policies argue that without effective interventions, a pandemic would cause greater damage to health over time, as adverse economic damage could be greater and more patients with COVID -19 may jeopardize the provision of health care.

However, there is also speculation that virus control policies can lead to unintended health benefits by promoting protective health behaviors such as camouflage and physical distancing. These measures could subsequently reduce the risks associated with business activities such as improving air quality, reducing occupational and road accidents and reducing the transmission of other infectious diseases such as seasonal influenza.

In the near future Nature Human behavior study, researchers evaluate the short-term and long-term benefits of these policies on the health outcomes of the Chinese population.

About the study

In the present study, researchers used comprehensive and representative records of deaths from the Chinese Disease Surveillance System (DSP), which covers more than 324 million people in 605 DSP districts / counties in 321 cities. These records represent 24.3% of China’s population. Researchers also gathered information from various news media and government reports on whether a city is implementing non-pharmacological interventions such as blocking.

Comparing the datasets, the researchers built a daily DSP-level data panel at the site level from 1 January 2020 to 31 July 2020, which included 1,105,938 DSP deaths that were reported by 28 September 2020.

Researchers used a three-point analysis system to assess the impact of stringent anti-infection policies. First, they assessed the short-term impact of these policies on the number of deaths from various causes, including cardiovascular disease (CVD), injuries, acute lower respiratory tract infections (ALRI), chronic lower respiratory tract infections (CLRI), neoplasms and other reasons during the study period.

Second, researchers examined whether these policies have a lasting impact on public health. In the third step, they analyzed the diverse impacts of these policies in different cities. They suggested that outcomes could vary across several dimensions, including income levels, industrial structure, initial health status, and initial level of pollution.

Survey results

Using death records based on 300 million Chinese and design the difference in differences, the researchers estimated that China’s tough policies against infection during the COVID-19 pandemic significantly reduced mortality outside Wuhan outside Wuhan by 4.6%. The health benefits persisted and became even more influential after the measures were relaxed. Finally, COVID-19-related mortality was reduced by 12.5% ​​in the medium term.

There have been significant changes in the behavioral pattern of the Chinese population, who now wear masks regularly and practice social distancing. There has been a significant reduction in air pollution and road accidents that are thought to have led to these results.

Researchers estimated that 54,000 lives could be saved for reasons other than COVID-19 in the 50 days of strict policies and 293,000 in the next 115 days. These encouraging results suggest that anti-virus measures have not only been effective in controlling COVID-19 in China, but have also led to unintended and significant public health benefits.


This study showed that strict anti-infection policies are responsible for unintended short- and medium-term health benefits. There were fewer deaths than CVDs, road accidents and ALRI and CLRI during the SAP period.

These health benefits persisted into the post-blockade period. Therefore, such interventions can be considered as sustainable alternatives to improve the health and quality of life of the population, even after the pandemic subsides.

Reference in the magazine:

  • Qi, J., Dhang, D., Zhang, X., et al. (2021). The short- and medium-term impact of stringent anti-infection policies on mortality outside COVID-19 in China. Nature Human behavior. doi: 10.1038 / s41562-021-01189-3.

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