Thomas Wieland: A phenomenological approach to assessing the effectiveness of COVID-19 related nonpharmaceutical interventions in Germany, in: Safety Science, Volume 131, 2020.
Nonpharmaceutical interventions against the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in Germany included the cancellation of mass events (from March 8), closures of schools and child day care facilities (from March 16) as well as a “lockdown” (from March 23). This study attempts to assess the effectiveness of these interventions in terms of revealing their impact on infections over time. Dates of infections were estimated from official German case data by incorporating the incubation period and an empirical reporting delay. Exponential growth models for infections and reproduction numbers were estimated and investigated with respect to change points in the time series. A significant decline of daily and cumulative infections as well as reproduction numbers is found at March 8, March 10 and March 3, respectively. Further declines and stabilizations are found in the end of March. There is also a change point in new infections at April 19, but daily infections still show a negative growth. From March 19, the reproduction numbers fluctuate on a level below one. The decline of infections in early March 2020 can be attributed to relatively small interventions and voluntary behavioural changes. Additional effects of later interventions cannot be detected clearly. Liberalizations of measures from April 20 did not induce a re-increase of infections. Thus, the effectiveness of most German interventions remains questionable. Moreover, assessing of interventions is impeded by the estimation of true infection dates and the influence of test volume.