In new modelling research published in The Lancet Public Health journal, the authors estimated that lifting control measures in April instead could delay a second peak until October, which would take pressure off health services in following months.
Mathematic modelling was used to simulate the effects of relaxing or pushing the current measures to a later date.
Schools and workplaces in Wuhan have been closed for months to contain the outbreak. But the research comes as Chinese authorities recently announced they would be easing the lockdown to allow people to travel again.
Lead researcher Dr Kiesha Prem, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), said: “The unprecedented measures the city of Wuhan has put in place to reduce social contacts in school and the workplace have helped to control the outbreak.
It also did not assume differences in contact rates on an individual level.
But nevertheless, experts have called the study “crucial” for policy makers across the world who are trying to determine the effectiveness of physical distancing control measures.
Dr James Gill, honorary clinical lecturer at Warwick Medical School, said: “Even recognising that a series of assumptions within the study data have been made to account for unknowns … this model has produced some encouraging results.
“The proposals put forward here align with current practices and support the continuation of the quarantine efforts to reduce the case load burden on health infrastructures.
“Given the current levels of assumptions already in use for government public health assumptions already in use for government public health responses, it is gratifying to see a reasoned model which may be able to further guide policy makers,” he added.
“Hopefully this study will allow governments greater clarity in balancing population restrictions against their economic impact given the power demonstrated here.”