Scientists and engineers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) suggest that coordinated strategic travel restrictions enacted in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic might have reduced the spread of the virus.

To reach this conclusion, the RPI scientists and engineers mapped and analyzed the global mobility network via air traffic patterns, amassing data about distances between countries via air travel and number of flights between those countries. For instance, the team determined through this data that although China is geographically closer to Thailand, the opportunity for spreading the virus between the U.S. and China was higher due to the greater number of flights between the two countries.

Once connections between assorted nations were determined by the researchers, that data was used to build a model capable of predicting the countries closer to one another in terms of disease spread.

The RPI team then applied the model to measure the effectiveness of travel restrictions various countries imposed to slow the spread of the virus. According to the results, researchers determined that although efforts such as lockdowns, entry bans and global travel bans enacted by assorted countries did slow the spread of the virus, had those efforts been coordinated, the results would have been dramatically more effective.

The findings are published in the journal Communications Physics.

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