The Impact of Control and Mitigation Strategies during the Second Wave of coronavirus Infections in Spain and Italy

Authors: De Nadai, M., Roomp, K., Lepri, B. , Oliver, N.

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Publication: Nature Scientific Reports , 12(1) p. 1-13, 2022
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European countries struggled to fight against the second and the third waves of the COVID-19 pandemic, as the Test-Trace-Isolate (TTI) strategy widely adopted over the summer and early fall 2020 failed to contain the spread of the disease effectively. This paper sheds light on the effectiveness of such a strategy in two European countries (Spain and Italy) by analysing data from June to December 2020, collected via a large-scale online citizen survey with 95,251 and 43,393 answers in Spain and Italy, respectively. Our analysis describes several weaknesses in each of the three pillars of the TTI strategy: Test, Trace, and Isolate. We find that 40% of respondents had to wait more than 48 hours to obtain coronavirus tests results, while literature has shown that a delay of more than one day might make tracing all cases inefficient. We also identify limitations in the manual contact tracing capabilities in both countries, as only 29% of respondents in close contact with a confirmed infected individual reported having been contact traced. Moreover, our analysis shows that more than 45% of respondents report being unable to self-isolate if needed. We also analyse the mitigation strategies deployed to contain the second wave of coronavirus. We find that these interventions were particularly effective in Italy, where close contacts were reduced by more than 20% in the general population. Finally, we analyse the participants’ perceptions about the coronavirus risk associated with different daily activities. We observe that they are often gender- and age-dependent, and not aligned with the actual risk identified by the literature. This finding emphasises the importance of deploying public-health communication campaigns to debunk misconceptions about SARS-CoV-2. Overall, our work illustrates the value of online citizen surveys to quickly and efficiently collect large-scale population data to support and evaluate policy decisions to combat the spread of infectious diseases, such as coronavirus.