The Department of Health in Northern Ireland has published modelling data which highlights the impact of social distancing measures on the spread of COVID-19.
The modelling suggests that prior to the introduction of social distancing measures, nearly three other people in the community were infected by every COVID-19 patient (reproduction number [R0], 2.8). However, with the introduction of social distancing and other restrictions, one COVID-19 patient now infects less than one other individual in the community (R0, 0.8). This is being reflected as a steady decline in the number of community-acquired COVID-19 cases, hospital and ICU admissions and mortality.
However, it is imperative to maintain the R0 ≤1 to ensure that the number of COVID-19 cases remains at the current level or less in the future. If R0 exceeds one, there is a risk for a spike in COVID-19 cases and possibly second or subsequent waves of infection.
The report states: "Any relaxation of the current restrictions will tend to increase the value of R from its current value and it will be important to use every additional measure we can to keep R below one." The emphasis still remains on extensive implementation of the 'test/trace/isolate' strategy.