A new study out of Greece has found that the country’s lockdown curfew may have increased the spread of COVID-19 because it reduced shopping hours and caused more crowding in stores.
Analysts looked at data from two regions of the country, one from where a curfew had been imposed from 9pm and another, the Attica region which includes Athens, where a 6pm curfew was imposed in February.
Using Google mobility data, researchers analyzed how much time was spent at home and how much time was spent at grocery stores in each region five weekends before the change in curfew time and four weekends after.
“What did the authors find? Compared to the Epirus & Western Macedonia region, the Attica region saw a small and statistically significant increase in time spent at home, as well as a small and non-significant decrease in time spent at groceries/pharmacies. In other words, the shift in the timing of night curfew had – at best – a marginal impact on mobility,” writes Noah Carl.
The shift reduced available shopping time by 3 hours, a margin of 20%, concentrating the same amount of shopping into a smaller time period and therefore increasing crowding in stores.
“As more people were present simultaneously in high-risk places such as supermarkets, the early curfew backfired,” the researchers concluded.
In other words, a draconian measure normally only implemented in times of war and extreme emergencies was sold on the basis of curbing the spread of the virus yet actually served to exacerbate its spread while curtailing people’s right to mobility.
At the start of the pandemic, fears that lockdown would cause some food supplies and essential items to run out also prompted huge crowds of people to gather outside and inside supermarkets.
As we highlighted earlier, the UK government is likely to scrap advice that encourages businesses to use perspex screens to stop the spread of COVID after it was discovered they actually made the virus more transmissible by reducing air flow.
However, mask mandates are set to remain in place in some settings despite studies showing that they have no measurable impact on reducing virus transmission.
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