Impact of international travel and border control measures on the global spread of the novel 2019 coronavirus outbreak

Wells C.R.,
Sah P.,
Moghadas S.M.,
Pandey A.,
Shoukat A.,
Wang Y.,
Wang Z.,
Meyers L.A.,
Singer B.H.,
Galvani A.P.
Document Type
Source Title
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
National Academy of Sciences


The novel coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19) in mainland China has rapidly spread across the globe. Within 2 mo since the outbreak was first reported on December 31, 2019, a total of 566 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS CoV-2) cases have been confirmed in 26 other countries. Travel restrictions and border control measures have been enforced in China and other countries to limit the spread of the outbreak. We estimate the impact of these control measures and investigate the role of the airport travel network on the global spread of the COVID-19 outbreak. Our results show that the daily risk of exporting at least a single SARS CoV-2 case from mainland China via international travel exceeded 95% on January 13, 2020. We found that 779 cases (95% CI: 632 to 967) would have been exported by February 15, 2020 without any border or travel restrictions and that the travel lockdowns enforced by the Chinese government averted 70.5% (95% CI: 68.8 to 72.0%) of these cases. In addition, during the first three and a half weeks of implementation, the travel restrictions decreased the daily rate of exportation by 81.3% (95% CI: 80.5 to 82.1%), on average. At this early stage of the epidemic, reduction in the rate of exportation could delay the importation of cases into cities unaffected by the COVID-19 outbreak, buying time to coordinate an appropriate public health response. ᄅ 2020 National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

Migration angle
Region/Country (by coverage)
Index Keywords

airport; Article; China; Chinese; coronavirus disease 2019; Coronavirus infection; epidemic; government; human; infection control; infection risk; major clinical study; priority journal; public health service; quarantine; SARS-related coronavirus; Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2; travel