Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions for Epidemic Outbreaks – Any Evidence?

DOI: 10.3238/zfa.2020.0147-0152

german translation / full article

Michael M. Kochen, Andreas Sönnichsen

QuestionCurrently dramatic interventions like the closure of schools and general curfew are taken to contain the pandemic spread of COVID-19, which may have extensive consequences. The question must be addressed whether there exists any evidence for the benefit of these interventions, and whether the relation between benefits and possible harm is acceptable. AnswerExisting evidence from studies is limited, but the majority of studies show effectiveness for both individual non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) (hand hygiene, surgical masks, individual social distancing) and public health interventions like school closures, work-place closures, but the latter may be followed by a second pandemic peak when discontinued. There are no studies on secondary effects (economic and psychosocial effects) of the more drastic public health interventions currently in effect. Current best evidence is in favor of discontinuing the current “shut-down-phase” after flattening of the infection curve has been reached, and to intensify individual NPIs to prevent a second pandemic spread. The more drastic isolation interventions should then be limited to the vulnerable groups.

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