Evidence-Based, Cost-Effective Interventions To Suppress The COVID-19 Pandemic: A Systematic Review
Juneau, Carl-Etienne et al.
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Background: In an unparalleled global response, during the COVID-19 pandemic, 90 countries asked 3.9 billion people to stay home. Yet some countries avoided lockdowns and focused on other strategies, like contact tracing and case isolation. How effective and cost-effective are these strategies? We aimed to provide a comprehensive summary of the evidence on pandemic control, with a focus on cost-effectiveness. Methods: Following PRISMA systematic review guidelines, MEDLINE (1946 to April week 2, 2020) and Embase (1974 to April 17, 2020) were searched using a range of terms related to pandemic control. Articles reporting on the effectiveness or cost-effectiveness of at least one intervention were included and grouped into higher-quality evidence (randomized trials) and lower-quality evidence (other study designs). Results: We found 1,653 papers; 62 were included. Higher-quality evidence was only available to support the effectiveness of hand washing and face masks. Modelling studies indicated that these measures are highly cost-effective. For other interventions, lower-quality evidence suggested that: (1) the most cost-effective interventions are swift contact tracing and case isolation, surveillance networks, protective equipment for healthcare workers, and early vaccination (when available); (2) home quarantines and stockpiling antivirals are less cost-effective; (3) social distancing measures like workplace and school closures are effective but costly, making them the least cost-effective options; (4) combinations are more cost-effective than single interventions; (5) interventions are more cost-effective when adopted early and for severe viruses like SARS-CoV-2. For H1N1 influenza, contact tracing was estimated to be 4,363 times more cost-effective than school closures ($2,260 vs. $9,860,000 per death prevented). Conclusions: A cautious interpretation of the evidence suggests that for COVID-19: (1) social distancing is effective but costly, especially when adopted late and (2) adopting as early as possible a combination of interventions that includes hand washing, face masks, ample protective equipment for healthcare workers, and swift contact tracing and case isolation is likely to be the most cost-effective strategy.