Quarantines work, but come at a cost
Hindustan Times Delhi|March 30, 2020
To beat the Covid-19 pandemic, India has imposed a tight curfew on its 1.3 billion people.
Zia Haq

Lockdowns elsewhere seem unprecedented. Yet quarantine as a medical strategy is centuries old. Evidence shows it works, but imposes long-term costs, according to a wide variety of literature reviewed by HT.

From the time of the Black Death in the mid-1300s and the first outbreaks of cholera in recorded history to the 1918 influenza pandemic, quarantines have always been a form of public-health response to pandemics as far back in history as one could go.

There’s evidence that quarantine helped to shorten the first influenza pandemic of the 21st century: the 2009 influenza H1N1 outbreak, mainly by preventing more people from getting it.

Italy had, at the time of going to print, 9,134 Covid-19 deaths. Italians have historically paid a high price to pandemics. Earliest forms of quarantine were, not surprisingly, born in Italy.

Quarantine comes from the Italian “quaranta,” denoting “obligatory means of separating persons”, according to the US Centres for Disease Control.

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