H1N1 and Gaza – Empircal evidence that movement restrictions are effective in a pandemic

Egypt and Israel both reported their first deaths due to the new H1N1 in July. Yet, the first pandemic H1N1 death in the Gaza Strip did not occur until 5 months later in December. Given that the Gaza Strip borders both Israel and Egypt, how is this possible?

The answer is simple: movement restrictions.

From Reuters, December 6, 2009

With Egypt’s help, Israel began restricting the flow of goods into Gaza in 2006 after Hamas won a legislative election.


Restrictions on who could enter and leave the Gaza Strip were tightened in 2007 when Hamas seized full control of the territory.


H1N1 swine flu has finally reached the Gaza Strip, the health ministry said on Sunday, worrying Palestinians who had credited Israel’s blockade of the territory with keeping the virus at bay.

And how did the virus finally get in?

Also from Reuters:

Palestinians had been concerned that several thousand pilgrims who recently returned from the annual haj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia might bring the virus back to Gaza with them.

Movement restrictions protected Gaza from the new H1N1. Relaxation of movement restrictions for the Haj let it in.

This should not be a surprise. Movement restrictions are the only measure which has ever been shown to be completely effective in stopping the spread of pandemic influenza. Such evidence is extensive and well-documented. See Empirical Evidence for the Effectiveness of Movement Restrictions for examples and references.

Some epidemiologists, including those running the WHO and the CDC, have claimed that movement restrictions would not work. They were, quite obviously, completely and utterly wrong. The “studies” they cite consist of “models”, ie made-up scenarios, which are carefully tweaked to guarantee that the p0litically “correct” answer is arrived at – that movement restrictions should not be attempted because they won’t work. The ample empirical data demonstrating the effectiveness of movement restrictions is ignored.

It is particularly impressive that H1N1 was kept out of the Gaza Strip because it shares two land borders with countries that have had infections for over 5 months. The success in keeping H1N1 out of the Gaza Strip was likely dependent on the use of the military. They know how to control the movement of people.

The lesson is clear, if other countries wish to protect their citizens from pandemic flu, especially one that may become even more lethal, they need to close their borders.

And don’t give the job to epidemiologists. They don’t know what they are doing.

Give it to the military. It’s their job.


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