Vinceti M, Filippini T, Rothman KJ, Ferrari F, Goffi A, Maffeis G, Orsini N. Lockdown timing and efficacy in controlling COVID-19 using mobile phone tracking. EClinicalMedicine. 2020 Aug;25:100457. doi: 10.1016/j.eclinm.2020.100457

BACKGROUND: Italy's severe COVID-19 outbreak was addressed by a lockdown that gradually increased in space, time and intensity. The effectiveness of the lockdown has not been precisely assessed with respect to the intensity of mobility restriction and the time until the outbreak receded.

METHODS: We used processed mobile phone tracking data to measure mobility restriction, and related those data to the number of new SARS-CoV-2 positive cases detected on a daily base in the three most affected Italian regions, Lombardy, Veneto and Emilia-Romagna, from February 1 through April 6, 2020, when two subsequent lockdowns with increasing intensity were implemented by the Italian government.

FINDINGS: During the study period, mobility restriction was inversely related to the daily number of newly diagnosed SARS-CoV-2 positive cases only after the second, more effective lockdown, with a peak in the curve of diagnosed cases of infection occurring 14 to 18 days from lockdown in the three regions and 9 to 25 days in the included provinces. An effective reduction in transmission must have occurred nearly immediately after the tighter lockdown, given the lag time of around 10 days from asymptomatic infection to diagnosis. The period from lockdown to peak was shorter in the areas with the highest prevalence of the infection. This effect was seen within slightly more than one week in the most severely affected areas.

INTERPRETATION: It appears that the less rigid lockdown led to an insufficient decrease in mobility to reverse an outbreak such as COVID-19. With a tighter lockdown, mobility decreased enough to bring down transmission promptly below the level needed to sustain the epidemic.

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