Corona pandemic: How successful are the measures against the virus?

Corona pandemic: How successful are the measures against the virus?

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COVID-19: Analysis clearly shows the effect of the different corona measures

Contact bans, restrictions on going out, closed daycare centers and schools: Since mid-March, drastic measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic have been in force in Germany. But what does it do? This is shown by simulations by a research team.

The Federal Constitutional Court recently rejected the extension of the corona measures. Many people in this country will welcome this judgment, because according to a survey, some of the measures, such as the ban on contact, are increasingly being questioned. What is the point of such an approach, some ask. Researchers have an answer to this.

COVID 19 case numbers analyzed with regard to the measures

In mid-March, numerous measures were taken to limit the further spread of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 as far as possible. Since then, public life in Germany has been severely restricted.

After the pleasing decline in the number of new COVID-19 diseases, the debate about the effectiveness of the measures taken so far and about further easing is also gaining momentum.

According to a current communication, researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization (MPIDS) and the University of Göttingen have now successfully analyzed the German COVID-19 case numbers with regard to the measures and derived scenarios for the coming weeks.

The scientists' computer models could also provide insights into the effectiveness of the measures in other countries. Their results were published in the scientific journal "Science".

How well did the measures work and how does it go on?

Many people are currently concerned with the question of how well the measures to contain the corona pandemic have worked in recent weeks and how things will continue in the coming weeks.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization also investigated these questions. The team has been simulating the course of the corona epidemic in Germany together with scientists from the Göttingen Campus since mid-March.

In their model calculations, the researchers relate the gradual restrictions on public life in March to the development of the COVID-19 case numbers.

In particular, they examined the impact of the three packages of measures in March: the cancellation of major public events around March 8, the closure of educational institutions and many shops on March 16, and the far-reaching ban on contacts on March 22.

To this end, the experts combined data on the chronological course of the new COVID-19 diseases with a model for epidemic dynamics, which makes it possible to analyze the previous pandemic course and examine scenarios for the future.

Strong turnaround noted

According to the computer models, the packages of measures initially slowed the spread of COVID-19 and finally broke the dreaded exponential growth.

"Our analysis clearly shows the effect of the different measures, which ultimately brought about a strong turnaround," explains Viola Priesemann, research group leader at the MPIDS.

"Our model calculations show us the overall effect of the change in people's behavior that goes with the measures," adds Michael Wilczek, also a research group leader and co-author of the study.

Computer model transferable to other countries

The Göttingen researchers did not only focus on Germany at work.

“Right from the start, we designed our computer model so that it could be transferred to other countries and regions. Our analysis tools are freely accessible on GitHub and are already being used and developed by researchers all over the world, ”says Jonas Dehning, first author of the study.

The Göttingen team is currently working on applying the model to European countries. It is particularly important to work out the different times of the measures in the different countries, which could allow conclusions to be drawn about the effectiveness of the individual measures.

Worried about second wave

The analysis of Germany by the Göttingen scientists based on the number of cases up to April 21 indicated a positive development for the coming weeks.

However, their analysis also reveals a key challenge in assessing epidemic dynamics: Changes in the spread of the novel coronavirus only become apparent with significant delays in the COVID-19 case numbers.

“We have only recently seen the first effects of the easing on April 20 in the case numbers. And before we can assess the easing on May 11th, we also have to wait two to three weeks, ”explains Michael Wilczek.

That is why the researchers continue to monitor the situation very closely. They evaluate the new number of cases every day to assess whether a second wave can be expected.

Different scenarios

In addition, the Göttingen team uses three different model scenarios to show how the number of new cases could develop. If the infection rate doubles with the easing of May 11th, a second wave is expected.

If the infection rate instead takes about the same value as the recovery rate, the number of new infections every day remains approximately constant. However, there is always a risk of a new wave.

According to Viola Priesemann, it is also possible that the number of new infections will decrease further.

"If all people continue to be very careful, and contact tracking by the health authorities is effective, and at the same time all new sources of infection are detected and contained early, the number of cases can continue to decrease," says the Göttingen physicist.

"How exactly the numbers will develop in the future depends crucially on our behavior, adherence to distance recommendations and hygiene measures," says the scientist. (ad)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization (MPIDS): What Do the Measures Bring ?, (Access: May 17, 2020), Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization (MPIDS)
  • Jonas Dehning, Johannes Zierenberg, F. Paul Spitzner, Michael Wibral, Joao Pinheiro Neto, Michael Wilczek, Viola Priesemann: Inferring change points in the spread of COVID-19 reveals the effectiveness of interventions; in: Science, (published: 15.05.2020), Science

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