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

Hanming Fang (), Long Wang () and Yang Yang

No 26906, NBER Working Papers from National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc

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.

JEL-codes: I10 I18 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020-03
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cna, nep-mig, nep-soc and nep-ure
Note: HC HE PE
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Published as Hanming Fang & Long Wang & Yang Yang, 2020. "Human mobility restrictions and the spread of the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in China," Journal of Public Economics, vol 191.

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Journal Article: Human mobility restrictions and the spread of the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in China (2020) Downloads
Working Paper: Human Mobility Restrictions and the Spread of the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in China (2020) Downloads
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