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Critical timing for triggering public health interventions to prevent COVID-19 resurgence: a mathematical modelling study

By Zhuoru Zou, Christopher K Fairley, Mingwang Shen, Nick Scott, Xianglong Xu, Zengbin Li, Rui Li, Guihua Zhuang, Lei Zhang

Posted 07 Jul 2021
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.07.06.21260055

To prevent the catastrophic health and economic consequences from COVID-19 epidemics, some nations have aimed for no community transmission outside of quarantine. To achieve this, governments have had to respond rapidly to outbreaks with public health interventions. But the exact characteristics of an outbreak that trigger these measures differ and are poorly defined. We used existing data from epidemics in Australia to establish a practical model to assist stakeholders in making decisions about the optimal timing and extent of interventions. We found that the number of reported cases on the day that interventions commenced strongly predicted the size of the outbreaks. We quantified how effective interventions were at containing outbreaks in relation to the number of cases at the time the interventions commenced. We also found that containing epidemics from novel variants that had higher transmissibility would require more stringent interventions that commenced earlier. In contrast, increasing vaccination coverage would enable more relaxed interventions. Our model highlights the importance of early and decisive action in the early phase of an outbreak if governments aimed for zero community transmission, although new variants and vaccination coverage may change this.

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