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

38 Pages Posted: 30 Mar 2020 Last revised: 9 Apr 2020

See all articles by Hanming Fang

Hanming Fang

University of Pennsylvania - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Long Wang

ShanghaiTech University - School of Entrepreneurship and Management

Zoe Yang

The Chinese University of Hong Kong - CUHK Business School

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: March 2020

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.

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Suggested Citation

Fang, Hanming and Wang, Long and Yang, Yang, Human Mobility Restrictions and the Spread of the Novel Coronavirus (2019-Ncov) in China (March 2020). NBER Working Paper No. w26906, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3563974

Hanming Fang (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania - Department of Economics ( email )

Ronald O. Perelman Center for Political Science
133 South 36th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6297
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Long Wang

ShanghaiTech University - School of Entrepreneurship and Management ( email )

100 Haike Rd
Pudong Xinqu, Shanghai
China

Yang Yang

The Chinese University of Hong Kong - CUHK Business School ( email )

7/F, Cheng Yu Tung Building
12 Chak Cheung Street, Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Hong Kong

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