Disease Burden Attributable to the First Wave of COVID-19 in China and the Effect of Timing on the Cost-Effectiveness of Movement Restriction Policies



Movement restriction policies (MRPs) are effective in preventing/delaying COVID-19 transmission but are associated with high societal cost. This study aims to estimate the health burden of the first wave of COVID-19 in China and the cost-effectiveness of early versus late implementation of MRPs to inform preparation for future waves.


The SEIR (susceptible, exposed, infectious, and recovered) modeling framework was adapted to simulate the health and cost outcomes of initiating MRPs at different times: rapid implementation (January 23, the real-world scenario), delayed by 1 week, delayed by 2 weeks, and delayed by 4 weeks. The end point was set as the day when newly confirmed cases reached zero. Two costing perspectives were adopted: healthcare and societal. Input data were obtained from official statistics and published literature. The primary outcomes were disability-adjusted life-years, cost, and net monetary benefit. Costs were reported in both Chinese renminbi (RMB) and US dollars (USD) at 2019 values.


The first wave of COVID-19 in China resulted in 38 348 disability adjusted life-years lost (95% CI 19 417-64 130) and 2639 billion RMB losses (95% CI 1347-4688). The rapid implementation strategy dominated all other delayed strategies. This conclusion was robust to all scenarios tested. At a willingness-to-pay threshold of 70 892 RMB (the national annual GDP per capita) per disability-adjusted life-year saved, the probability for the rapid implementation to be the optimal strategy was 96%.


Early implementation of MRPs in response to COVID-19 reduced both the health burden and societal cost and thus should be used for future waves of COVID-19.


Jidi Zhao Huajie Jin Xun Li Jianguo Jia Chao Zhang Huijuan Zhao Wuren Ma Zhuozhu Wang Yi He Jimmy Lee Donglan Zhang Bo Yin Weiwei Zheng Haiyin Wang Mark Pennington

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