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Cochrane publishes three rapid reviews of the evidence on different public health measures to slow the spread of COVID-19


Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is caused by a new virus, SARS-CoV-2, that has spread quickly throughout the world. As there is currently no effective treatment or vaccine for COVID-19 other ways of slowing its spread are needed.

 What’s new in the Cochrane’s Special Collection?

Added to the Special Collection are three rapid reviews of the evidence on measures that aim to prevent potentially infected people from transmitting the virus to healthy people:

What do the rapid reviews tell us?

What are the limitations of the evidence?

COVID-19 research is rapidly evolving, but the evidence base is still very uncertain. Evidence about the economic and social harms resulting from these measures is lacking. Much of the evidence currently available to help policy makers with public health decisions is based on mathematical modelling, which relies on making assumptions with imperfect data. Some ‘real-life’ evidence from observational studies is now available, however the certainty of the evidence from this type of study design is generally low or very low because the studies are often poorly designed or conducted.

What are the challenges for decision making?

To maintain the best possible balance of public health measures, decision makers must constantly monitor their outbreak situation and assess the impact of the measures implemented. Future research will help to disentangle the effects of these diverse prevention and control measures and will help determine which measures or combinations of measures may work best while minimising the harms to our communities.

More about the rapid reviews

Does quarantine control coronavirus (COVID-2019) either alone or in combination with other public health measures?

The lead author Barbara Nussbaumer-Streit (Danube University Krems, Austria) said: “We published the first version of this review in April 2020. Since then 22 additional studies on quarantine for COVID-19 have become available. While the number of studies has increased significantly in a short space of time, the evidence base is still limited because most studies on COVID-19 are mathematical modelling studies that make different assumptions on important model parameters. The evidence suggests that implementation of quarantine early on in a pandemic and combining quarantine with other public health measures such as physical distancing, can help slow the spread of COVID-19.  However, it is difficult to determine what combination of measures is the best to reduce the number of cases and deaths.”

Can travel-related control measures contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Lead author Jacob Burns (Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Munich, Germany) said: “Travel-related control measures are not implemented in a vacuum, and their impact will be influenced by other factors, like the stage of the pandemic, whether community transmission has been established, whether other measures like physical distancing and wearing of facemasks have been implemented. The studies included in our review rarely investigated these aspects.”  

How effective is screening for COVID-19?

Lead author Meera Viswanathan (RTI International, North Carolina, USA) said: “We are unsure whether combined screenings, repeated symptom assessment, or rapid laboratory tests are useful. Because screening can miss people who are infected, public health measures such as face coverings, physical distancing, and quarantine for those who may have contact with an infected person, continue to be very important.”

This content was originally published here.


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