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Augmenting contact matrices with time-use data for fine-grained intervention modelling of disease dynamics: A modelling analysis

By Edwin van Leeuwen, PHE Joint modelling group, Frank G Sandmann

Posted 05 Jun 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.06.03.20067793

Background: Social distancing is an important public health intervention to reduce or interrupt the sustained community transmission of emerging infectious pathogens, such as SARS-CoV-2 during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. We aimed to explore the impact on the epidemic curve of fewer contacts when individuals reduce the time they spend on selected daily activities. Methods: We combined the large-scale empirical data of a social contact survey and a time-use survey to estimate contact matrices by age group (0-15, 16-24, 25-44, 45-64, 65+) and daily activity (work, schooling, transportation, and four leisure activities: social visits, bar/cafe/restaurant visits, park visits, and non-essential shopping). We assumed that reductions in time are proportional to reductions in contacts. The derived matrices were then applied in an age-structured dynamic-transmission model of COVID-19 to explore the effects. Findings: The relative reductions in the derived contact matrices were highest when closing schools (in ages 0-14 years), workplaces (15-64 years), and stopping social visits (65+ years). For COVID-19, the closure of workplaces, schools, and stopping social visits had the largest impact on reducing the epidemic curve and delaying its peak, while the predicted impact of fewer contacts in parks, bars/cafes/restaurants, and non-essential shopping were minimal. Interpretation: We successfully augmented contact matrices with time-use data to predict the highest impact of social distancing measures from reduced contacts when spending less time at work, school, and on social visits. Although the predicted impact from other leisure activities with potential for close physical contact were minimal, changes in mixing patterns and time-use immediately after re-allowing social activities may pose increased short-term transmission risks, especially in potentially crowded environments indoors.

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