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Preprint in English | EMBASE | ID: ppcovidwho-326852

ABSTRACT

Introduction: Understanding human mixing patterns relevant to infectious diseases spread through close contact is vital for modelling transmission dynamics and optimisation of disease control strategies. Mixing patterns in low-income countries like Malawi are not well understood. Methodology: We conducted a social mixing survey in urban Blantyre, Malawi between April and July 2021 (between the 2nd and 3rd wave of COVID-19 infections). Participants living in densely-populated neighbourhoods were randomly sampled and, if they consented, reported their physical and non-physical contacts within and outside homes lasting at least 5 minutes during the previous day. Age-specific mixing rates were calculated, and a negative binomial mixed effects model was used to estimate determinants of contact behaviour. Results: Of 1,201 individuals enrolled, 702 (58.5%) were female, the median age was 15 years (interquartile range [IQR] 5-32) and 127 (10.6%) were HIV-positive. On average, participants reported 10.3 contacts per day (range: 1-25). Mixing patterns were highly age-assortative, particularly those within the community and with skin-to-skin contact. Adults aged 20-49y reported the most contacts (median:11, IQR: 8-15) of all age groups;38% (95%CI: 16-63) more than infants (median: 8, IQR: 5-10), who had the least contacts. Household contact frequency increased by 3% (95%CI 2-5) per additional household member. Unemployed participants had 15% (95%CI: 9-21) fewer contacts than other adults. Among long range (>30 meters away from home) contacts, secondary school children had the largest median contact distance from home (257m, IQR 78-761). HIV-positive status in adults >18 years-old was not associated with increased contact patterns (1%, 95%CI -9-12). During this period of relatively low COVID-19 incidence in Malawi, 301 (25.1%) individuals stated that they had limited their contact with others due to COVID-19 precautions;however, their reported contacts were not fewer (8%, 95%CI 1-13). Conclusion: In urban Malawi, contact rates, are high and age-assortative, with little behavioural change due to either HIV-status or COVID-19 circulation. This highlights the limits of contact-restriction-based mitigation strategies in such settings and the need for pandemic preparedness to better understand how contact reductions can be enabled and motivated.

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