If people washed their hands regularly, wore masks and adhered to social distancing guidelines, these three simple behaviors could stop most of the coronavirus pandemic, even without a vaccine or additional treatments, according to a new study.
The study, published Tuesday in the journal PLoS Medicine, created a new model to look at the spread of the disease and prevention efforts that could help stop it.
The contact rates in the study were based on people's interaction in the Netherlands, but the model is appropriate for other Western countries, the researchers at the University Medical Center Utrecht said.
"A large epidemic can be prevented if the efficacy of these measures exceeds 50%," they wrote.
If, however, the public is slow but does eventually change behavior, it can reduce the number of cases, but not delay a peak in cases, according to the model.
If governments shut down early, but no one takes additional personal protective steps, this would delay but not reduce a peak in cases. A three-month intervention would delay the peak by, at most, seven months, the study found.
If government-imposed physical distancing were combined with disease awareness and personal steps, the height of the peak could be reduced, even after government-imposed social distancing orders were lifted.
"Moreover, the effect of combinations of self-imposed measures is additive," the researchers wrote. "In practical terms, it means that SARS-CoV-2 will not cause a large outbreak in a country where 90% of the population adopts handwashing and social distancing that are 25% efficacious."
Even with self