The unprecedented outbreak of 2019-nCoV pneumonia infection in Wuhan City caused global concern, the outflowing population from Wuhan was believed to be a main reason for the rapid and large-scale spread of the disease, so the government implemented a city closure measure to prevent its transmission considering the large amount of travelling before the Chinese New Year.
Based on the daily reported new cases and the population movement data between January 1 and 31, we examined the effects of population outflow from Wuhan on the geographical expansion of the infection in other provinces and cities of China, as well as the impacts of the city closure in Wuhan in different scenarios of closing dates.
We observed a significantly positive association between population movement and the number of the 2019-nCoV cases. The spatial distribution of cases per unit outflow population indicated that some areas with large outflow population might have been underestimated for the infection, such as Henan and Hunan provinces. Further analysis revealed that if the city closure policy was implemented two days earlier, 1420 (95% CI: 1059, 1833) cases could have been prevented, and if two days later, 1462 (95% CI: 1090, 1886) more cases would be possible.
Our findings suggest that population movement might be one important trigger for the transmission of 2019-nCoV infection in China, and the policy of city closure is effective to control the epidemic.