COVID-19 pandemic-related lockdown: response time is more important than its strictness

Gil Loewenthal, Shiran Abadi, Oren Avram, Keren Halabi, Noa Ecker, Natan Nagar, Itay Mayrose, Tal Pupko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The rapid spread of SARS-CoV-2 and its threat to health systems worldwide have led governments to take acute actions to enforce social distancing. Previous studies used complex epidemiological models to quantify the effect of lockdown policies on infection rates. However, these rely on prior assumptions or on official regulations. Here, we use country-specific reports of daily mobility from people cellular usage to model social distancing. Our data-driven model enabled the extraction of lockdown characteristics which were crossed with observed mortality rates to show that: (i) the time at which social distancing was initiated is highly correlated with the number of deaths, r2 = 0.64, while the lockdown strictness or its duration is not as informative; (ii) a delay of 7.49 days in initiating social distancing would double the number of deaths; and (iii) the immediate response has a prolonged effect on COVID-19 death toll.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13171
JournalEMBO Molecular Medicine
Issue number11
StatePublished - 6 Nov 2020


  • COVID-19
  • coronavirus
  • epidemiology modeling
  • lockdown
  • mobility data

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Medicine


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