Mitigation policies and COVID-19–associated mortality — 37 European countries, January 23–June 30, 2020
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Mitigation policies and COVID-19–associated mortality — 37 European countries, January 23–June 30, 2020
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    What is already known about this topic? Mitigation policies, including closure of nonessential businesses, restrictions on gatherings and movement, and stay-at-home orders, have been critical to controlling the COVID-19 pandemic in many countries, but they come with high social and economic costs. What is added by this report? European countries that implemented more stringent mitigation policies earlier in their outbreak response tended to report fewer COVID-19 deaths through the end of June 2020. These countries might have saved several thousand lives relative to countries that implemented similar policies, but later. What are the implications for public health practice? Earlier implementation of stringent mitigation policies, even by just a few weeks, appears to be important to prevent widespread COVID-19 transmission and reduce the number of deaths. As cases and deaths from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Europe rose sharply in late March, most European countries implemented strict mitigation policies, including closure of nonessential businesses and mandatory stay-at-home orders. These policies were largely successful at curbing transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 (1), but they came with social and economic costs, including increases in unemployment, interrupted education, social isolation, and related psychosocial outcomes (2,3). A better understanding of when and how these policies were effective is needed. Using data from 37 European countries, the impact of the timing of these mitigation policies on mortality from COVID-19 was evaluated. Linear regression was used to assess the association between policy stringency at an early time point and cumulative mortality per 100,000 persons on June 30. Implementation of policies earlier in the course of the outbreak was associated with lower COVID-19–associated mortality during the subsequent months. An increase by one standard deviation in policy stringency at an early timepoint was associated with 12.5 cumulative fewer deaths per 100,000 on June 30. Countries that implemented stringent policies earlier might have saved several thousand lives relative to those countries that implemented similar policies, but later. Earlier implementation of mitigation policies, even by just a few weeks, might be an important strategy to reduce the number of deaths from COVID-19. Suggested citation for this article: Fuller JA, Hakim A, Victory KR, et al. Mitigation Policies and COVID-19–Associated Mortality — 37 European Countries, January 23–June 30, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. ePub: 12 January 2021. mm7002e4.htm?s_cid=mm7002e4_w mm7002e4-H.pdf
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