Vinceti M, Balboni E, Rothman KJ, Teggi S, Bellino S, Pezzotti P, Ferrari F, Orsini N, Filippini T
J Travel Med - (-) - [2022-07-24; online 2022-07-24]
Italy was the first country after China to be severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, in early 2020. The country responded swiftly to the outbreak with a nationwide two-step lockdown, the first one light, and the second one tight. By analysing 2020 national mobile phone movements, we assessed how lockdown compliance influenced its efficacy. We measured individual mobility during the first epidemic wave with mobile phone movements tracked through carrier networks, and related this mobility to daily new SARS-CoV-2 infections, hospital admissions, intensive care admissions and deaths attributed to COVID-19, taking into account reason for travel (work-related or not) and the means of transport. The tight lockdown resulted in an 82% reduction in mobility for the entire country and was effective in swiftly curbing the outbreak as indicated by a shorter time-to-peak of all health outcomes, particularly for provinces with the highest mobility reductions and the most intense COVID-19 spread. Reduction of work-related mobility was accompanied by a nearly linear benefit in outbreak containment; work-unrelated movements had a similar effect only for restrictions exceeding 50%. Reduction in mobility by car and by airplane was nearly linearly associated with a decrease in most COVID-19 health outcomes, while for train travel reductions exceeding 55% had no additional beneficial effects. The absence of viral variants and vaccine availability during the study period eliminated confounding from these two sources. Adherence to the COVID-19 tight lockdown during the first wave in Italy was high and effective in curtailing the outbreak. Any work-related mobility reduction was effective, but only high reductions in work-unrelated mobility restrictions were effective. For train travel, there was a threshold above which no further benefit occurred. These findings could be particular to the spread of SARS-CoV-2, but might also apply to other communicable infections with comparable transmission dynamics.