Background: We are currently experiencing an unprecedented challenge, managing and containing an outbreak of a new coronavirus disease known as COVID-19. While China—where the outbreak started—seems to have been able to contain the growth of the epidemic, different outbreaks are nowadays present in multiple countries. Nonetheless, authorities have taken action and implemented containment measures, even if not everything is known.
Methods: To facilitate this task, we have studied the effect of different containment strategies that can be put into effect. Our work referred initially to the situation in Spain as of February 28, 2020, where a few dozens of cases had been detected but it has been updated to match the current situation as of 13 April. We implemented an SEIR metapopulation model that allows tracing explicitly the spatial spread of the disease through data-driven stochastic simulations.
Results: Our results are in line with the most recent recommendations from the World Health Organization, namely, that the best strategy is the early detection and isolation of individuals with symptoms, followed by interventions and public recommendations aimed at reducing the transmissibility of the disease, which, although might not be sufficient for disease eradication, would produce as a second-order effect a delay of several days in the raise of the number of infected cases.
Conclusions: Many quantitative aspects of the natural history of the disease are still unknown, such as the amount of possible asymptomatic spreading or the role of age in both the susceptibility and mortality of the disease. However, preparedness plans and mitigation interventions should be ready for quick and efficacious deployment globally. The scenarios evaluated here through data-driven simulations indicate that measures aimed at reducing individuals’ flow are much less effective than others intended for early case identification and isolation. Therefore, resources should be directed towards detecting as many and as fast as possible the new cases and isolate them.
Alberto Aleta, and Yamir Moreno, “Evaluation of the potential incidence of COVID-19 and effectiveness of contention measures in Spain: a data-driven approach”, BMC Medicine 18:157 (2020).