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1.
researchsquare; 2022.
Preprint in English | PREPRINT-RESEARCHSQUARE | ID: ppzbmed-10.21203.rs.3.rs-2225159.v1

ABSTRACT

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused over 6.4 million registered deaths to date, and has had a profound impact on economic activity. Here, we study the interaction of transmission, mortality, and the economy during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic from January 2020 to December 2022 across 25 European countries. We adopt a Bayesian vector autoregressive model with both fixed and random effects. We find that increases in disease transmission intensity decreases Gross domestic product (GDP) and increases daily excess deaths, with a longer lasting impact on excess deaths in comparison to GDP, which recovers more rapidly. Broadly, our results reinforce the intuitive phenomenon that significant economic activity arises from diverse person-to-person interactions. We report on the effectiveness of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) on transmission intensity, excess deaths and changes in GDP, and resulting implications for policy makers. Our results highlight a complex cost-benefit trade off from individual NPIs. For example, banning international travel increases GDP however reduces excess deaths. We consider country random effects and their associations with excess changes in GDP and excess deaths. For example, more developed countries in Europe typically had more cautious approaches to the COVID-19 pandemic, prioritising healthcare and excess deaths over economic performance. Long term economic impairments are not fully captured by our model, as well as long term disease effects (Long Covid). Our results highlight that the impact of disease on a country is complex and multifaceted, and simple heuristic conclusions to extract the best outcome from the economy and disease burden are challenging.

2.
arxiv; 2022.
Preprint in English | PREPRINT-ARXIV | ID: ppzbmed-2211.00054v1

ABSTRACT

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused over 6.4 million registered deaths to date, and has had a profound impact on economic activity. Here, we study the interaction of transmission, mortality, and the economy during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic from January 2020 to December 2022 across 25 European countries. We adopt a Bayesian vector autoregressive model with both fixed and random effects. We find that increases in disease transmission intensity decreases Gross domestic product (GDP) and increases daily excess deaths, with a longer lasting impact on excess deaths in comparison to GDP, which recovers more rapidly. Broadly, our results reinforce the intuitive phenomenon that significant economic activity arises from diverse person-to-person interactions. We report on the effectiveness of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) on transmission intensity, excess deaths and changes in GDP, and resulting implications for policy makers. Our results highlight a complex cost-benefit trade off from individual NPIs. For example, banning international travel increases GDP however reduces excess deaths. We consider country random effects and their associations with excess changes in GDP and excess deaths. For example, more developed countries in Europe typically had more cautious approaches to the COVID-19 pandemic, prioritising healthcare and excess deaths over economic performance. Long term economic impairments are not fully captured by our model, as well as long term disease effects (Long Covid). Our results highlight that the impact of disease on a country is complex and multifaceted, and simple heuristic conclusions to extract the best outcome from the economy and disease burden are challenging.

3.
arxiv; 2022.
Preprint in English | PREPRINT-ARXIV | ID: ppzbmed-2210.14221v1

ABSTRACT

Uncertainty can be classified as either aleatoric (intrinsic randomness) or epistemic (imperfect knowledge of parameters). Majority of frameworks assessing infectious disease risk consider only epistemic uncertainty. We only ever observe a single epidemic, and therefore cannot empirically determine aleatoric uncertainty. Here, for the first time, we characterise both epistemic and aleatoric uncertainty using a time-varying general branching processes. Our framework explicitly decomposes aleatoric variance into mechanistic components, quantifying the contribution to uncertainty produced by each factor in the epidemic process, and how these contributions vary over time. The aleatoric variance of an outbreak is itself a renewal equation where past variance affects future variance. Surprisingly, superspreading is not necessary for substantial uncertainty, and profound variation in outbreak size can occur even without overdispersion in the distribution of the number of secondary infections. Aleatoric forecasting uncertainty grows dynamically and rapidly, and so forecasting using only epistemic uncertainty is a significant underestimate. Failure to account for aleatoric uncertainty will ensure that policymakers are misled about the substantially higher true extent of potential risk. We demonstrate our method, and the extent to which potential risk is underestimated, using two historical examples: the 2003 Hong Kong severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak, and the early 2020 UK COVID-19 epidemic. Our framework provides analytical tools to estimate epidemic uncertainty with limited data, to provide reasonable worst-case scenarios and assess both epistemic and aleatoric uncertainty in forecasting, and to retrospectively assess an epidemic and thereby provide a baseline risk estimate for future outbreaks. Our work strongly supports the precautionary principle in pandemic response.

4.
arxiv; 2022.
Preprint in English | PREPRINT-ARXIV | ID: ppzbmed-2210.11358v1

ABSTRACT

Since the emergence of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), many contact surveys have been conducted to measure changes in human interactions in the face of the pandemic and non-pharmaceutical interventions. These surveys were typically conducted longitudinally, using protocols that differ from those used in the pre-pandemic era. We present a model-based statistical approach that can reconstruct contact patterns at 1-year resolution even when the age of the contacts is reported coarsely by 5 or 10-year age bands. This innovation is rooted in population-level consistency constraints in how contacts between groups must add up, which prompts us to call the approach presented here the Bayesian rate consistency model. The model incorporates computationally efficient Hilbert Space Gaussian process priors to infer the dynamics in age- and gender-structured social contacts and is designed to adjust for reporting fatigue in longitudinal surveys. We demonstrate on simulations the ability to reconstruct contact patterns by gender and 1-year age interval from coarse data with adequate accuracy and within a fully Bayesian framework to quantify uncertainty. We investigate the patterns of social contact data collected in Germany from April to June 2020 across five longitudinal survey waves. We reconstruct the fine age structure in social contacts during the early stages of the pandemic and demonstrate that social contacts rebounded in a structured, non-homogeneous manner. We also show that by July 2020, social contact intensities remained well below pre-pandemic values despite a considerable easing of non-pharmaceutical interventions. This model-based inference approach is open access, computationally tractable enabling full Bayesian uncertainty quantification, and readily applicable to contemporary survey data as long as the exact age of survey participants is reported.

5.
medrxiv; 2022.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2022.05.23.22275458

ABSTRACT

Covid-19 has caused more than 1 million deaths in the US, including at least 1,433 deaths among children and young people (CYP) aged 0-19 years. Deaths among US CYP are rare in general, and so we argue here that the mortality burden of Covid-19 in CYP is best understood in the context of all other causes of CYP death. Using publicly available data from the National Center for Health Statistics, and comparing to mortality in 2019, the immediate pre-pandemic period, we find that Covid-19 is a leading cause of death in CYP aged 0-19 years in the US, ranking #9 among all causes of deaths, #5 in disease related causes of deaths (excluding accidents, assault and suicide), and #1 in deaths caused by infectious / respiratory diseases. Due to the impact of mitigations such as social distancing and our comparison of a single disease (Covid-19) to groups of causes such as deaths from pneumonia and influenza, these rankings are likely conservative lower bounds. Our findings underscore the importance of continued vaccination campaigns for CYP over 5 years of age in the US and for effective Covid-19 vaccines for under 5 year olds.

6.
medrxiv; 2022.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2022.04.06.22273497

ABSTRACT

Several vaccines candidates are in development against Middle East respiratory syndrome–related coronavirus (MERS-CoV), which remains a major public health concern. Using individual-level data on the 2013-2014 Kingdom of Saudi Arabia epidemic, we employ counterfactual analysis on inferred transmission trees (“who-infected-whom”) to assess potential vaccine impact. We investigate the conditions under which prophylactic “proactive” campaigns would outperform “reactive” campaigns (i.e. vaccinating either before or in response to the next outbreak), focussing on healthcare workers. Spatial scale is crucial: if vaccinating healthcare workers in response to outbreaks at their hospital only, proactive campaigns perform better, unless efficacy has waned significantly. However, campaigns that react at regional or national level consistently outperform proactive campaigns. Measures targeting the animal reservoir reduce transmission linearly, albeit with wide uncertainty. Substantial reduction of MERS-CoV morbidity and mortality is possible when vaccinating healthcare workers, underlining the need for at-risk countries to stockpile vaccines when available.

7.
medrxiv; 2021.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2021.12.14.21267606

ABSTRACT

The Delta variant of concern of SARS-CoV-2 has spread globally causing large outbreaks and resurgences of COVID-19 cases. The emergence of Delta in the UK occurred on the background of a heterogeneous landscape of immunity and relaxation of non-pharmaceutical interventions. Here we analyse 52,992 Delta genomes from England in combination with 93,649 global genomes to reconstruct the emergence of Delta, and quantify its introduction to and regional dissemination across England, in the context of changing travel and social restrictions. Through analysis of human movement, contact tracing, and virus genomic data, we find that the focus of geographic expansion of Delta shifted from India to a more global pattern in early May 2021. In England, Delta lineages were introduced >1,000 times and spread nationally as non-pharmaceutical interventions were relaxed. We find that hotel quarantine for travellers from India reduced onward transmission from importations; however the transmission chains that later dominated the Delta wave in England had been already seeded before restrictions were introduced. In England, increasing inter- regional travel drove Delta's nationwide dissemination, with some cities receiving >2,000 observable lineage introductions from other regions. Subsequently, increased levels of local population mixing, not the number of importations, was associated with faster relative growth of Delta. Among US states, we find that regions that previously experienced large waves also had faster Delta growth rates, and a model including interactions between immunity and human behaviour could accurately predict the rise of Delta there. Delta's invasion dynamics depended on fine scale spatial heterogeneity in immunity and contact patterns and our findings will inform optimal spatial interventions to reduce transmission of current and future VOCs such as Omicron.

8.
researchsquare; 2021.
Preprint in English | PREPRINT-RESEARCHSQUARE | ID: ppzbmed-10.21203.rs.3.rs-1159614.v1

ABSTRACT

The Delta variant of concern of SARS-CoV-2 has spread globally causing large outbreaks and resurgences of COVID-19 cases. The emergence of Delta in the UK occurred on the background of a heterogeneous landscape of immunity and relaxation of non-pharmaceutical interventions. Here we analyse 52,992 Delta genomes from England in combination with 93,649 global genomes to reconstruct the emergence of Delta, and quantify its introduction to and regional dissemination across England, in the context of changing travel and social restrictions. Through analysis of human movement, contact tracing, and virus genomic data, we find that the focus of geographic expansion of Delta shifted from India to a more global pattern in early May 2021. In England, Delta lineages were introduced >1,000 times and spread nationally as non-pharmaceutical interventions were relaxed. We find that hotel quarantine for travellers from India reduced onward transmission from importations; however the transmission chains that later dominated the Delta wave in England had been already seeded before restrictions were introduced. In England, increasing inter-regional travel drove Delta's nationwide dissemination, with some cities receiving >2,000 observable lineage introductions from other regions. Subsequently, increased levels of local population mixing, not the number of importations, was associated with faster relative growth of Delta. Among US states, we find that regions that previously experienced large waves also had faster Delta growth rates, and a model including interactions between immunity and human behaviour could accurately predict the rise of Delta there. Delta’s invasion dynamics depended on fine scale spatial heterogeneity in immunity and contact patterns and our findings will inform optimal spatial interventions to reduce transmission of current and future VOCs such as Omicron.

9.
medrxiv; 2021.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2021.11.07.21266018

ABSTRACT

Background: Achieving vaccine-derived herd immunity depends on public acceptance of vaccination, which in turn relies on people's understanding of its risks and benefits. The fundamental objective of public health messaging on vaccines is therefore the clear and concise communication of often complex information, and increasingly the countering of misinformation. The primary outlet shaping societal understanding is the mainstream online news media. There was widespread media coverage of the multiple vaccines that were rapidly developed in response to COVID-19. We studied vaccine coverage on the front pages of mainstream online news, using text-mining analysis to quantify the amount of information and sentiment polarization of vaccine coverage delivered to readers. Methods: We analyzed 28 million articles from 172 major news sources, across 11 countries between July 2015 and April 2021. We employed keyword-based frequency analysis to estimate the proportion of coverage given to vaccines in our dataset. We performed topic detection using BERTopic and Named Entity Recognition to identify the leading subjects and actors mentioned in the context of vaccines. We used the Vader Python module to perform sentiment polarization quantification of all our English-language articles. Results: We find that the proportion of headlines mentioning vaccines on the front pages of international major news sites increased from 0.1% to 3.8% with the outbreak of COVID-19. The absolute number of negatively polarized articles increased from a total of 6,698 before the COVID-19 outbreak 2015-2019 compared to 28,552 in 2020-2021. Overall, however, before the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccine coverage was slightly negatively polarized (57% negative) whereas with the outbreak, the coverage was primarily positively polarized (38% negative). Conclusions: Because of COVID-19, vaccines have risen from a marginal topic to a widely discussed topic on the front pages of major news outlets. Despite a perceived rise in hesitancy, the mainstream online media, i.e. the primary information source to most individuals, has been strongly positive compared to pre-pandemic vaccine news, which was mainly negative. However, the pandemic was accompanied with an order of magnitude increase in vaccine news volume that due to pre-pandemic low frequency sampling bias may contribute to a perceived negative sentiment. These results highlight the important interactions between the volume of news and overall polarisation. To the best of our knowledge, our work is the first systematic text mining study of vaccines in the context of COVID-19.

10.
medrxiv; 2021.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2021.11.01.21265731

ABSTRACT

The SARS-CoV-2 Gamma variant spread rapidly across Brazil, causing substantial infection and death waves. We use individual-level patient records following hospitalisation with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 to document the extensive shocks in hospital fatality rates that followed Gamma’s spread across 14 state capitals, and in which more than half of hospitalised patients died over sustained time periods. We show that extensive fluctuations in COVID-19 in-hospital fatality rates also existed prior to Gamma’s detection, and were largely transient after Gamma’s detection, subsiding with hospital demand. Using a Bayesian fatality rate model, we find that the geographic and temporal fluctuations in Brazil’s COVID-19 in-hospital fatality rates are primarily associated with geographic inequities and shortages in healthcare capacity. We project that approximately half of Brazil’s COVID-19 deaths in hospitals could have been avoided without pre-pandemic geographic inequities and without pandemic healthcare pressure. Our results suggest that investments in healthcare resources, healthcare optimization, and pandemic preparedness are critical to minimize population wide mortality and morbidity caused by highly transmissible and deadly pathogens such as SARS-CoV-2, especially in low- and middle-income countries. Note The following manuscript has appeared as ‘Report 46 - Factors driving extensive spatial and temporal fluctuations in COVID-19 fatality rates in Brazilian hospitals’ at https://spiral.imperial.ac.uk:8443/handle/10044/1/91875 . One sentence summary COVID-19 in-hospital fatality rates fluctuate dramatically in Brazil, and these fluctuations are primarily associated with geographic inequities and shortages in healthcare capacity.

11.
medrxiv; 2021.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2021.08.21.21262393

ABSTRACT

Genomic sequencing provides critical information to track the evolution and spread of SARS-CoV-2, optimize molecular tests, treatments and vaccines, and guide public health responses. To investigate the spatiotemporal heterogeneity in the global SARS-CoV-2 genomic surveillance, we estimated the impact of sequencing intensity and turnaround times (TAT) on variant detection in 167 countries. Most countries submit genomes >21 days after sample collection, and 77% of low and middle income countries sequenced <0.5% of their cases. We found that sequencing at least 0.5% of the cases, with a TAT <21 days, could be a benchmark for SARS-CoV-2 genomic surveillance efforts. Socioeconomic inequalities substantially impact our ability to quickly detect SARS-CoV-2 variants, and undermine the global pandemic preparedness. One-Sentence SummarySocioeconomic inequalities impacted the SARS-CoV-2 genomic surveillance, and undermined the global pandemic preparedness.

12.
medrxiv; 2021.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2021.07.27.21261148

ABSTRACT

High throughput sequencing enables rapid genome sequencing during infectious disease outbreaks and provides an opportunity to quantify the evolutionary dynamics of pathogens in near real-time. One difficulty of undertaking evolutionary analyses over short timescales is the dependency of the inferred evolutionary parameters on the timespan of observation. Here, we characterise the molecular evolutionary dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 and 2009 pandemic H1N1 (pH1N1) influenza during the first 12 months of their respective pandemics. We use Bayesian phylogenetic methods to estimate the dates of emergence, evolutionary rates, and growth rates of SARS-CoV-2 and pH1N1 over time and investigate how varying sampling window and dataset sizes affects the accuracy of parameter estimation. We further use a generalised McDonald-Kreitman test to estimate the number of segregating non-neutral sites over time. We find that the inferred evolutionary parameters for both pandemics are time-dependent, and that the inferred rates of SARS-CoV-2 and pH1N1 decline by ~50% and ~100%, respectively, over the course of one year. After at least 4 months since the start of sequence sampling, inferred growth rates and emergence dates remain relatively stable and can be inferred reliably using a logistic growth coalescent model. We show that the time-dependency of the mean substitution rate is due to elevated substitution rates at terminal branches which are 2-4 times higher than those of internal branches for both viruses. The elevated rate at terminal branches is strongly correlated with an increasing number of segregating non-neutral sites, demonstrating the role of purifying selection in generating the time-dependency of evolutionary parameters during pandemics.

13.
medrxiv; 2021.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2021.06.23.21259405

ABSTRACT

India has seen a surge of SARS-CoV-2 infections and deaths in early part of 2021, despite having controlled the epidemic during 2020. Building on a two-strain, semi-mechanistic model that synthesizes mortality and genomic data, we find evidence that altered epidemiological properties of B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant play an important role in this resurgence in India. Under all scenarios of immune evasion, we find an increased transmissibility advantage for B.1617.2 against all previously circulating strains. Using an extended SIR model accounting for reinfections and wanning immunity, we produce evidence in support of how early public interventions in March 2021 would have helped to control transmission in the country. We argue that enhanced genomic surveillance along with constant assessment of risk associated with increased transmission is critical for pandemic responsiveness.

14.
arxiv; 2021.
Preprint in English | PREPRINT-ARXIV | ID: ppzbmed-2106.12360v2

ABSTRACT

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused severe public health consequences in the United States. In this study, we use a hierarchical Bayesian model to estimate the age-specific COVID-19 attributable deaths over time in the United States. The model is specified by a novel non-parametric spatial approach, a low-rank Gaussian Process (GP) projected by regularised B-splines. We show that this projection defines a new GP with attractive smoothness and computational efficiency properties, derive its kernel function, and discuss the penalty terms induced by the projected GP. Simulation analyses and benchmark results show that the spatial approach performs better than standard B-splines and Bayesian P-splines and equivalently well as a standard GP, for considerably lower runtimes. The B-splines projected GP priors that we develop are likely an appealing addition to the arsenal of Bayesian regularising priors. We apply the model to weekly, age-stratified COVID-19 attributable deaths reported by the US Centers for Disease Control, which are subject to censoring and reporting biases. Using the B-splines projected GP, we can estimate longitudinal trends in COVID-19 associated deaths across the US by 1-year age bands. These estimates are instrumental to calculate age-specific mortality rates, describe variation in age-specific deaths across the US, and for fitting epidemic models. Here, we couple the model with age-specific vaccination rates to show that lower vaccination rates in younger adults aged 18-64 are associated with significantly stronger resurgences in COVID-19 deaths, especially in Florida and Texas. These results underscore the critical importance of medically able individuals of all ages to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to limit fatal outcomes.

15.
medrxiv; 2021.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2021.06.16.21258817

ABSTRACT

Mask-wearing has been a controversial measure to control the COVID-19 pandemic. While masks are known to substantially reduce disease transmission in healthcare settings (Howard et al 2021), studies in community settings report inconsistent results (Brainard et al 2020). Investigating the inconsistency within epidemiological studies, we find that a commonly used proxy, government mask mandates, does not correlate with large increases in mask-wearing in our window of analysis. We thus analyse the effect of mask-wearing on transmission instead, drawing on several datasets covering 92 regions on 6 continents, including the largest survey of individual-level wearing behaviour (n=20 million) (Kreuter et al 2020). Using a hierarchical Bayesian model, we estimate the effect of both mask-wearing and mask-mandates on transmission by linking wearing levels (or mandates) to reported cases in each region, adjusting for mobility and non-pharmaceutical interventions. We assess the robustness of our results in 123 experiments across 22 sensitivity analyses. Across these analyses, we find that an entire population wearing masks in public leads to a median reduction in the reproduction number R of 25.8%, with 95% of the medians between 22.2% and 30.9%. In our window of analysis, the median reduction in $R$ associated with the wearing level observed in each region was 20.4% [2.0%, 23.3%]. We do not find evidence that mandating mask-wearing reduces transmission. Our results suggest that mask-wearing is strongly affected by factors other than mandates. We establish the effectiveness of mass mask-wearing, and highlight that wearing data, not mandate data, are necessary to infer this effect.

16.
researchsquare; 2021.
Preprint in English | PREPRINT-RESEARCHSQUARE | ID: ppzbmed-10.21203.rs.3.rs-637724.v1

ABSTRACT

The SARS-CoV-2 B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant was first identified in the state of Maharashtra in late 2020 and has spread throughout India, displacing the B.1.1.7 (Alpha) variant and other pre-existing lineages. Mathematical modelling indicates that the growth advantage is most likely explained by a combination of increased transmissibility and immune evasion. Indeed in vitro, the delta variant is less sensitive to neutralising antibodies in sera from recovered individuals, with higher replication efficiency as compared to the Alpha variant. In an analysis of vaccine breakthrough in over 100 healthcare workers across three centres in India, the Delta variant not only dominates vaccine-breakthrough infections with higher respiratory viral loads compared to non-delta infections (Ct value of 16.5 versus 19), but also generates greater transmission between HCW as compared to B.1.1.7 or B.1.617.1 (p=0.02). In vitro, the Delta variant shows 8 fold approximately reduced sensitivity to vaccine-elicited antibodies compared to wild type Wuhan-1 bearing D614G. Serum neutralising titres against the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant were significantly lower in participants vaccinated with ChadOx-1 as compared to BNT162b2 (GMT 3372 versus 654, p<0001). These combined epidemiological and in vitro data indicate that the dominance of the Delta variant in India has been most likely driven by a combination of evasion of neutralising antibodies in previously infected individuals and increased virus infectivity. Whilst severe disease in fully vaccinated HCW was rare, breakthrough transmission clusters in hospitals associated with the Delta variant are concerning and indicate that infection control measures need continue in the post-vaccination era.

17.
medrxiv; 2021.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2021.06.10.21258647

ABSTRACT

While seasonal variation has a known influence on the transmission of several respiratory viral infections, its role in SARS-CoV-2 transmission remains unclear. As previous analyses have not accounted for the implementation of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) in the first year of the pandemic, they may yield biased estimates of seasonal effects. Building on two state-of-the-art observational models and datasets, we adapt a fully Bayesian method for estimating the association between seasonality and transmission in 143 temperate European regions. We find strong seasonal patterns, consistent with a reduction in the time-variable Rt of 42.1% (95% CI: 24.7% - 53.4%) from the peak of winter to the peak of summer. These results imply that the seasonality of SARS-CoV-2 transmission is comparable in magnitude to the most effective individual NPIs but less than the combined effect of multiple interventions.

18.
medrxiv; 2021.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2021.03.25.21254330

ABSTRACT

As European governments face resurging waves of COVID-19, non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) continue to be the primary tool for infection control. However, updated estimates of their relative effectiveness have been absent for Europe’s second wave, largely due to a lack of collated data that considers the increased subnational variation and diversity of NPIs. We collect the largest dataset of NPI implementation dates in Europe, spanning 114 subnational areas in 7 countries, with a systematic categorisation of interventions tailored to the second wave. Using a hierarchical Bayesian transmission model, we estimate the effectiveness of 17 NPIs from local case and death data. We manually validate the data, address limitations in modelling from previous studies, and extensively test the robustness of our estimates. The combined effect of all NPIs was smaller relative to estimates from the first half of 2020, indicating the strong influence of safety measures and individual protective behaviours--such as distancing--that persisted after the first wave. Closing specific businesses was highly effective. Gathering restrictions were highly effective but only for the strictest limits. We find smaller effects for closing educational institutions compared to the first wave, suggesting that safer operation of schools was possible with a set of stringent safety measures including testing and tracing, preventing mixing, and smaller classes. These results underscore that effectiveness estimates from the early stage of an epidemic are measured relative to pre-pandemic behaviour. Updated estimates are required to inform policy in an ongoing pandemic.

19.
arxiv; 2021.
Preprint in English | PREPRINT-ARXIV | ID: ppzbmed-2103.15561v2

ABSTRACT

Simulating the spread of infectious diseases in human communities is critical for predicting the trajectory of an epidemic and verifying various policies to control the devastating impacts of the outbreak. Many existing simulators are based on compartment models that divide people into a few subsets and simulate the dynamics among those subsets using hypothesized differential equations. However, these models lack the requisite granularity to study the effect of intelligent policies that influence every individual in a particular way. In this work, we introduce a simulator software capable of modeling a population structure and controlling the disease's propagation at an individualistic level. In order to estimate the confidence of the conclusions drawn from the simulator, we employ a comprehensive probabilistic approach where the entire population is constructed as a hierarchical random variable. This approach makes the inferred conclusions more robust against sampling artifacts and gives confidence bounds for decisions based on the simulation results. To showcase potential applications, the simulator parameters are set based on the formal statistics of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the outcome of a wide range of control measures is investigated. Furthermore, the simulator is used as the environment of a reinforcement learning problem to find the optimal policies to control the pandemic. The obtained experimental results indicate the simulator's adaptability and capacity in making sound predictions and a successful policy derivation example based on real-world data. As an exemplary application, our results show that the proposed policy discovery method can lead to control measures that produce significantly fewer infected individuals in the population and protect the health system against saturation.

20.
ssrn; 2021.
Preprint in English | PREPRINT-SSRN | ID: ppzbmed-10.2139.ssrn.3782441

ABSTRACT

Background: The global COVID-19 pandemic and response has focused on prevention, detection, and response. Beyond morbidity and mortality of those infected, pandemics carry secondary impacts, such as children orphaned or bereft of their caregivers. Such children often face adverse consequences, including poverty, abuse, delayed development, and institutionalization. We provide estimates for the magnitude of this problem resulting from COVID-19 and describe the need for resource allocation.Methods: We use mortality and fertility data to model rates of COVID-19-associated orphanhood and caregiver deaths for 18 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas, and extrapolate global estimates of COVID-associated deaths of parents and grandparent caregivers.Results: We estimate that globally, >1 million children were orphaned or lost a caregiver due to COVID-19-associated deaths during March–December 2020. Countries with higher rates of caregiver deaths included Peru, South Africa, Mexico, Russian Federation, Colombia, Brazil, Islamic Republic of Iran, Argentina, U.S.A., and Spain (range, 1·1–9·8/1000). For most countries, numbers of children orphaned were greater than deaths among those aged 15–44 years; 2–5 times more children had deceased fathers than deceased mothers.Conclusions: Orphanhood and caregiver deaths are a shadow pandemic resulting from COVID-19-associated deaths: we find that over one million children worldwide have lost a parent or caregiver in just ten months. Accelerating equitable vaccine delivery is key to prevention. Psychosocial and economic support can help families nurture children bereft of caregivers and promote their recovery. Strengthening family-based care can help ensure that institutionalization of these children is avoided. These data demonstrate the need for an additional pillar of our response: prevent, detect, respond, and care for children.Funding: UK Research and Innovation (Global Challenges Research Fund (GCR), Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Medical Research Council), UK National Institute for Health Research, U.S. National Institutes of Health, Imperial College.Declaration of Interests: Dr. Donnelly reports grants from UK Medical Research Council and grants from NIHR during the conduct of the study. Dr. Cluver reports grants from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Global Challenges Research Fund, during the conduct of the study. All other authors report nothing to disclose.Ethics: We used modeled aggregate data and publicly available de-identified survey metadata.

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