It's been a frustrating time for millions around the world during stay-at-home orders as a result of COVID-19. But a new study suggests this wasn't all for naught, offering "fresh evidence that aggressive and unprecedented shutdowns ... were necessary to halt the exponential spread" of the virus, despite the economic upheaval they caused, per the Washington Post. The research published in the journal Nature looked at how more than 1,700 non-pharmaceutical interventions—school and business closings, working from home, etc.—affected virus spread in six countries: the United States, China, Italy, France, Iran, and South Korea. Based on the examined data, scientists estimated that among those nations, 530 million coronavirus infections were prevented by the shutdowns, with 60 million of those in the US.
In China, the result of their own shutdowns was nearly five times that, preventing about 285 million cases. One notable finding, per the Post: Closing schools didn't seem to have any significant effect on curbing infections, though the study's authors say that needs to be studied more. Banning large gatherings similarly didn't make a big dent in curbing infections in China, the US, South Korea, and France, though this move did make an impact in Iran and Italy. A different new study, also published in Nature, found that in 11 European countries, "major non-pharmaceutical interventions and lockdown in particular have had a large effect on reducing transmission," cutting infection rates by an average of 82% and saving about 3.1 million lives. Meanwhile, Business Insider reports that "mounting evidence" suggests the virus arrived in the US as early as December. (New Zealand is virus-free.)