PREPRINT: What is required to prevent a second major outbreak of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 upon lifting the metropolitan-wide quarantine of Wuhan city, China

The Chinese government implemented a metropolitan-wide quarantine of Wuhan city on 23rd January 2020 to curb the epidemic of the coronavirus COVID-19. Lifting of this quarantine is imminent. We modelled the effects of two key health interventions on the epidemic when the quarantine is lifted.

Method: We constructed a compartmental dynamic model to forecast the trend of the COVID-19 epidemic at different quarantine lifting dates and investigated the impact of different rates of public contact and facial mask usage on the epidemic. Results: We estimated that at the end of the epidemic, a total of 65,572 (46,156-95,264) individuals would be infected by the virus, among which 16,144 (14,422-23,447, 24.6%) would be infected through public contacts, 45,795 (32,390-66,395, 69.7%) through household contact, 3,633 (2,344-5,865, 5.5%) through hospital contacts (including 783 (553-1,134) non-COVID-19 patients and 2,850 (1,801-4,981) medical staff members). A total of 3,262 (1,592-6,470) would die of COVID-19 related pneumonia in Wuhan. For an early lifting date (21st March), facial mask needed to be sustained at a relatively high rate (≥85%) if public contacts were to recover to 100% of the pre-quarantine level. In contrast, lifting the quarantine on 18th April allowed public person-to-person contact adjusted back to the pre-quarantine level with a substantially lower level of facial mask usage (75%). However, a low facial mask usage (<50%) combined with an increased public contact (>100%) would always lead a significant second outbreak in most quarantine lifting scenarios. Lifting the quarantine on 25th April would ensure a smooth decline of the epidemics regardless of the combinations of public contact rates and facial mask usage. Conclusion: The prevention of a second epidemic is viable after the metropolitan-wide quarantine is lifted but requires a sustaining high facial mask usage and a low public contact rate.

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