Lockdowns can reduce the severity of Covid-19 epidemics – and genetic evidence proves it

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Certain non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs), such as lockdowns and travel bans, are crucial to slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2, according to a new study based on genetic evidence.

"Unprecedented public health interventions, including travel restrictions and national lockdowns have been implemented to stem the Covid-19 epidemic, but the effectiveness of non-pharmaceutical interventions is still debated," the authors wrote. Their work was published in Nature this week.

Their findings were based on a phylogenetic analysis of more than 29 000 publicly available whole-genome SARS-CoV-2 sequences. Phylogenetic analysis refers to the study of the evolutionary development of a group of organisms – in this case, the coronavirus. Studying the genome (the genetic instructions of an organism) allows scientists to monitor how the virus changes over time, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explained.

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