As the world tries to figure out the right balance of safety vs. normalcy in reopening after the pandemic, a team of international researchers is suggesting a model: 50 days of strict lockdown, followed by 30 days of easing, in a continuous loop. This turned out to be the best of three options laid out in the study in the European Journal of Epidemiology, per a release from the University of Cambridge. The first scenario envisioned no restrictions at all, but researchers said this would result in an unacceptable number of deaths—7.8 million across 16 countries modeled in the study. (The US was not among them, per WUSA9.) The second scenario envisioned a cycle of 50 days of lesser "mitigation measures" (short of a strict lockdown), followed by 30 days of easing. Researchers said this would backfire after the first three months, ultimately resulting in 3.5 million deaths.
The third scenario—a cycle of 50 days of strict lockdown and 30 days of easing—would result in a much smaller figure of 130,000 deaths, reports CNBC. The downside is that the pandemic would last at least 18 months, compared to six months in the first scenario and 12 to 18 months in the second. Still, researchers found option No. 3 best. "This intermittent combination of strict social distancing, and a relatively relaxed period, with efficient testing, case isolation, contact tracing, and shielding the vulnerable, may allow populations and their national economies to 'breathe' at intervals—a potential that might make this solution more sustainable," says Dr. Rajiv Chowdhury of Cambridge. The big difference in deaths between the second and third options is the "R number," referring to the number of people an individual infects. The R number is 0.8 in the second option and 0.5 in the third. (Read more coronavirus stories.)