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Countries in Europe that quickly implemented stringent measures to control the spread of the new coronavirus saw lower death rates through June 2020 than those imposing such policies later, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The study, published on Wednesday, is the latest volley in a continuing debate among researchers and public health officials over which containment measures are effective and when should they be put in place. The question is not easy to answer: Every analysis contains assumptions, and it can be difficult to compare one state or country with another.
The C.D.C. analysis involves data from 37 countries that instituted measures like closing nonessential businesses, canceling public events, closing schools, restricting the size of gatherings and asking people to stay at home. The countries differed in how many of these measures they implemented and when.
To assess how rigorously countries attempted to control the spread of the virus, the C.D.C. researchers used the Oxford Stringency Index, which includes nine policies thought to prevent the virus’s spread. The index is weighted to account for the strictness of each policy, like closing businesses or limiting the size of gatherings.
Stringent measures prevented thousands of deaths, despite the severe costs in unemployment and social isolation, the study concluded. In 26 countries, more than 70,000 deaths might have been averted if the most stringent measures had been implemented when the pandemic began.
Most of the preventable deaths were in the United Kingdom, France and Spain.
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