Modeling COVID-19 infection and recovery to determine when to emerge from lockdown

Faculty of Science
Mathematics and statistics
Two people talking.
With the rapid amount of information published daily on the COVID-19 pandemic, the question of how to apply models in a rapidly evolving epidemic becomes paramount.

Stacey R. Smith?, Mathematics Professor at the University of Ottawa, and Leon Tribe, Sydney Dynamics MVP and National Director of Sales for PowerObjects, worked together to conduct mathematical modelling of COVID-19 and help develop clear guidance on the conditions required to end lockdown. In this study, they calculated that the rate of 1 in 10,000 infected people was a critical threshold to generate a significant risk of direct exposure, correlating with the value at which most countries introduced strong intervention measures.

Professor Stacey R. Smith?
Professor Stacey R. Smith?

In addition, Smith? and Tribe allowed their models to continuously adapt to new information, switching between exponential, linear and logarithmic growth, as required. In doing so, they were able to examine changes in disease progression and establish when a country will recover from its pandemic, which has remained relatively unclear. By examining the doubling time of COVID-19 growth, they were able to determine when initial outbreaks were triggered, when recovery began and when resurgence in cases occurred for all countries.

In the end, Smith? and Tribe showed that a good definition of effective recovery is when the doubling time (how long it takes for the number of infected people to double in number) corresponds to the duration of infection. It follows that understanding a fast-moving epidemic requires fast-moving models that can adapt to short-term data and make predictions when data are absent. This research provides a template for determining when a country can emerge from lockdown.

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