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Social Distancing Measures Are Slowly Paying Off in Italy, San Francisco, and Elsewhere Around the World

by Eben Diskin Mar 31, 2020

Finally, there’s some encouraging news coming out of Italy. Europe’s COVID-19 epicenter and one of the world’s biggest hotspots for the virus, is showing some early signs that its three-week lockdown might be paying off.

The number of new people being admitted into intensive care dropped from 124 on Saturday to 50 on Sunday, reported Italian publication Il Giornale. The number of new cases also declined from 5,974 on Saturday to 5,217 on Sunday, as well as new deaths, which went from from 919 on Friday to 889 on Saturday and 756 on Sunday, according to Reuters.

Luca Richeldi, head of the Division of Pulmonary Medicine at Agostino Gemelli University Hospital in Rome, believes this trend proves that “through our behavior, we save lives.”

Italy has been in lockdown since March 9, and just extended it to April 12. According to Richeldi, the encouraging trends are reason to be hopeful, but cautions people not to let their guard down prematurely. The numbers, Richeldi said, are “a reason for us to be even stricter. We are in a very long battle.”

Italy isn’t the only country with good news to report. In Wuhan, China, the origin of the virus’ outbreak and once its largest hotspot, has just started reopening businesses. After a two-month lockdown, around 70-80 percent of shops in the city’s Chuhe Hanjie mall are open, though many now impose stricter limits on how many customers are allowed to enter at once.

Lockdowns and social distancing might not appear to be having any immediate effects in your community, but research shows that such measures have already prevented hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide.

According to research conducted by Imperial College London, the social distancing efforts of 11 European nations may have already prevented 59,000 deaths up to March 31.

The United States is also seeing some encouraging signs, with San Francisco — one of the first US cities to commit to a full lockdown — experiencing a flatter curve than expected. Doctors at Bay Area hospitals are reporting fewer cases of COVID-19 than previously estimated by this point, due to the early implementation of social distancing measures.

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