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Restricting movement the best way to stop fast spread of infectious diseases, study finds

La Trobe University Media Release

Restricting movement between cities is the most effective way to slow the spread of infectious diseases such as COVID-19, a new study by epidemiology experts from Australia and New Zealand has found.

Researchers from La Trobe University in Melbourne, Te Kunenga ki Pūrehuroa Massey University and Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland in New Zealand, studied the dynamics of infectious disease transmission in an interconnected world for their paper, High connectivity and human movement limits the impact of travel time on infectious disease transmission.

The study, published in The Journal of the Royal Society Interface, underscores the difficulty of controlling an emerging infection in highly connected communities.

The researchers used real-world data focused on the spread of SARS-COV-2 during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the aim of better understanding how such a disease spreads from person to person in a highly connected global environment. Before vaccination, interventions would often rely on changes in human mobility to curb or eliminate the viral spread of disease.

The research team used a population model based on human movement data from 340 cities in China. This model effectively replicates the early trajectory of COVID-19 cases, providing valuable insights into the spread of the virus.

Algorithms were used to identify properties influencing the spread between cities. The findings showed that travel time between cities, calculated using the maximum allowed speed for a particular road and distances between through road networks, was the most crucial factor, followed closely by the numbers of people moving between cities.

The findings revealed that minor restrictions in movement aren’t enough to significantly impact spread between cities, and only substantial reductions in human movement between cities can significantly slow infection spread times.

The authors found these insights offer a nuanced understanding of how infectious diseases spread in a globally connected world and can help to guide future public health interventions and policy decisions.

Lead Investigator Dr Reju John from Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland, says the research provides a sophisticated understanding of the relationship between human movement, connectivity and travel time in the context of infectious disease transmission.

“These insights are vital for developing effective strategies to manage and mitigate the impact of pandemics on a global scale,” he adds.

Massey’s Percival Carmine Chair in Epidemiology and Public Health, Professor David Hayman, says the research contributes to the ongoing discourse surrounding infectious diseases.

“It also lays the groundwork for more effective and targeted interventions, emphasising the need for nuanced epidemiological models that incorporate mobility dynamics,” Professor Hayman said.

Senior Investigator from La Trobe University, Associate Professor Joel Miller, says the collaborative effort marks a significant advancement in our collective understanding of infectious disease transmission in our interconnected world.

“This work underscores the difficulty of controlling an emerging infection in highly connected communities,” Associate professor Miller said.

“Unfortunately, minor reductions in travel are not effective: a pathogen will quickly find alternative routes between communities.”

The research was funded by Massey alumni Bryce and Anne Carmine, including through their support of Professor Hayman as the Percival Carmine Chair in Epidemiology and Public Health. Another piece of research resulting from this funding looked at the transmission of SARS-like coronaviruses from wildlife to humans.

Read the full research article, High connectivity and human movement limits the impact of travel time on infectious disease transmission, here.


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  1. Fred

    Nice to see that modern data supports what the epidemiologists have recommended doing previously.

  2. Bob

    Seeing the Agenda 2030 plan is to move the dial of living conditions back towards the pre-industrial era, eg 15 minute cities with cars replaced by autonomous buses, e-bikes, bicycles and foot traffic – it makes sense to incorporate the findings of the NZ genius researchers with the official narrative that masks also stop the spread of modelled viruses? Containing people in 15 min cities stops the spread between zones if there is a safe & effective barrier in place. To prevent seepage from adjacent areas, the govt could erect tall borderline fences made of N95 mask material. All virus problems solved, all control freaks happy. 2024, Year of the Medical Geniuses.

  3. Clakka

    National public holidays in both India and China see the biggest mass of human travel in the world. China seems successful in shutting it down, but India far from it. I know to stay well away from those countries at those times.

    With the outbreak of polio in Indonesia, for me a visit is out of the question, and I’ll be keeping well away from anyone coming from Java or thereabouts.

  4. Roswell

    Dan Andrews and the guy in WA (what’s his name again?) tried this and the Murdoch media went into meltdown.

    Clive Palmer even went to the courts to try and overrule WA’s decision.

    I guess the premiers knew more than they did.

  5. leefe

    Wow! Restrictions on the movement of people carrying a pathogen restricts the spread of the pathogen. Butter me on both sides and colour me stonkered; whoo wooda thunk it!

    Roswell: McGowan.
    They listened to the experts, who simply applied a little basic logic. But that interfered with the mighty capitalist machine, so it couldn’t be tolerated.

  6. Roswell

    Thanks, leefe. That’s the bloke. Mark McGowan.

  7. corvusboreus


    Restrictions on travel can help restrict spread of pathogens and pests..

    Also just in…

    Increases in atmospheric CO2 can trap radiant heat and cause warming.

    Cutting down heat absorbent canopy vegetation can cause previously shaded areas to noticibly heat up.

    Go figure ay?

  8. Roswell

    cb, good to see you.

  9. ankisip

    Now Leefe,
    Back in the good old days, you remember, hundreds of years ago, when all types of crusaders decimated native peoples with disease, the affected races didn’t have algorithms.
    You need computers to work this shit out…..
    Not common sense.

  10. Fred

    ankisip: Have a look at the origins of the word “quarantine”. The fact that “Western” diseases as carried by crusaders and colonisers decimated the indigenous peoples was of no concern to the visitors/invaders it gave them added advantage.

  11. ankisip

    That’s so true Fred.
    Stating the obvious.
    Like Leefe….. butter me both sides.

  12. Frank

    Best way to stop the fast spread of infectious diseases,shut down all American Bio labs around the world

  13. Fred

    Frank: Lol (almost hurt myself). I do hope you had your tongue firmly planted. If you’re serious, then there is no hope.

  14. joeflood

    Brilliant, How hard was that?

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