Juanjuan Zhang, Maria Litvinova, Yuxia Liang, Yan Wang, Wei Wang, Shanlu Zhao, Qianhui Wu, Stefano Merler, Cecile Viboud, Alessandro Vespignani, Marco Ajelli, Hongjie Yu
Strict interventions were successful to control the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in China. As transmission intensifies in other countries, the interplay between age, contact patterns, social distancing, susceptibility to infection and disease, and COVID-19 dynamics remains unclear. To answer these questions, we analyze contact surveys data for Wuhan and Shanghai before and during the outbreak and contact tracing information from Hunan Province. Daily contacts were reduced 7-9 fold during the COVID-19 social distancing period, with most interactions restricted to the household. Children 0-14 years were 59% (95% CI 7-82%) less susceptible than individuals 65 years and over. A transmission model calibrated against these data indicates that social distancing alone, as implemented in China during the outbreak, is sufficient to control COVID-19. While proactive school closures cannot interrupt transmission on their own, they reduce peak incidence by half and delay the epidemic. These findings can help guide global intervention policies.