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Human Mobility Restrictions and the Spread of the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in China

Author

Listed:
  • Hanming Fang
  • Long Wang
  • Yang Yang

Abstract

We quantify the causal impact of human mobility restrictions, particularly the lockdown of the city of Wuhan on January 23, 2020, on the containment and delay of the spread of the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). We employ a set of difference-in-differences (DID) estimations to disentangle the lockdown effect on human mobility reductions from other confounding effects including panic effect, virus effect, and the Spring Festival effect. We find that the lockdown of Wuhan reduced inflow into Wuhan by 76.64%, outflows from Wuhan by 56.35%, and within-Wuhan movements by 54.15%. We also estimate the dynamic effects of up to 22 lagged population inflows from Wuhan and other Hubei cities, the epicenter of the 2019-nCoV outbreak, on the destination cities' new infection cases. We find, using simulations with these estimates, that the lockdown of the city of Wuhan on January 23, 2020 contributed significantly to reducing the total infection cases outside of Wuhan, even with the social distancing measures later imposed by other cities. We find that the COVID-19 cases would be 64.81% higher in the 347 Chinese cities outside Hubei province, and 52.64% higher in the 16 non-Wuhan cities inside Hubei, in the counterfactual world in which the city of Wuhan were not locked down from January 23, 2020. We also find that there were substantial undocumented infection cases in the early days of the 2019-nCoV outbreak in Wuhan and other cities of Hubei province, but over time, the gap between the officially reported cases and our estimated “actual” cases narrows significantly. We also find evidence that enhanced social distancing policies in the 63 Chinese cities outside Hubei province are effective in reducing the impact of population inflows from the epicenter cities in Hubei province on the spread of 2019-nCoV virus in the destination cities elsewhere.

Suggested Citation

  • Hanming Fang & Long Wang & Yang Yang, 2020. "Human Mobility Restrictions and the Spread of the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in China," NBER Working Papers 26906, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:26906
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Jérôme Adda, 2016. "Economic Activity and the Spread of Viral Diseases: Evidence from High Frequency Data," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 131(2), pages 891-941.
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    3. Paolo Bajardi & Chiara Poletto & Jose J Ramasco & Michele Tizzoni & Vittoria Colizza & Alessandro Vespignani, 2011. "Human Mobility Networks, Travel Restrictions, and the Global Spread of 2009 H1N1 Pandemic," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 6(1), pages 1-8, January.
    4. Kaivan Munshi, 2003. "Networks in the Modern Economy: Mexican Migrants in the U. S. Labor Market," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(2), pages 549-599.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health

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