Outbreak dynamics of COVID-19 and exit strategies from lockdown

Date:

Mathias Peirlinck, Kevin Linka, Francisco Sahli Costabal, Ellen Kuhl
The Living Heart Project Member Community webinar series: May 2020.
Webinar replay

For the first time in history, on March 17, 2020, the European Union closed all its external borders in an attempt to contain the spreading of the coronavirus 2019, COVID-19. Throughout two past months, governments around the world have implemented massive travel restrictions and border control to mitigate the outbreak of this global pandemic. However, the precise effects of travel restrictions on the outbreak dynamics of COVID-19 remain unknown. Here we combine a global network mobility model with a local epidemiology model to simulate and predict the outbreak dynamics and outbreak control of COVID-19 across Europe. We correlate our mobility model to passenger air travel statistics and calibrate our epidemiology model using the number of reported COVID-19 cases for each country. Our simulations show that mobility networks of air travel can predict the emerging global diffusion pattern of a pandemic at the early stages of the outbreak. Our results suggest that an unconstrained mobility would have significantly accelerated the spreading of COVID-19, especially in Central Europe, Spain, and France. To highlight the potential of our model, we predicted of the outbreak dynamics of COVID-19 for different exit strategies that either maintain the current status quo, gradually return to normal, or rapidly return to the early outbreak exponential growth. We showed that our dynamic epidemiology model provides the flexibility to simulate the effects and timelines of various outbreak control and exit strategies to inform political decision making and identify solutions that minimize the impact of COVID-19 on global health.