illusory effects of non-pharmaceutical interventions on COVID-19 in Europe

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Comment on Flaxman et al. (2020, Nature, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2405-7): The

illusory effects of non-pharmaceutical interventions on COVID-19 in Europe 12

Authors: Stefan Homburg , Christof Kuhbandner *
1Leibniz University Hannover, Department of Public Finance, Germany 2University of Regensburg, Department of Human Sciences, Germany *Correspondence to: christof.kuhbandner@ur.de

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A key concept in epidemiology is the effective reproduction number, R(t), where t denotes time. This function represents the expected number of infections generated by one infected individual. Ceteris paribus, the effective reproduction number starts at R(0), referred to as the basic reproduction number, and decreases monotonically. The monotonic decrease is due to the fact that the number of individuals susceptible to the infection but not yet infected declines as the virus spreads. Of course, the function R(t) can be influenced by non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) as well as by voluntary behavioral changes. However, in case of a finite population, the effective reproduction number falls automatically and necessarily over time since the number of infections would otherwise diverge.

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