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Beware the Next Wave – Modeling Scenarios for the COVID-19 Pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic started to take hold in Germany, the CoSiMo (COVID simulation and modeling) group was established as a collaboration between JSC and the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies (FIAS). At the same time, the new SimLab Epidemiology and Pandemics was also established. Early in April, initial results were presented, demonstrating the potential effects of nonpharmaceutical interventions on the mitigation/suppression of the first wave and predicting the risk of a second one in the coming months.

As the second wave started to show in October 2020 and discussions veered towards different intervention strategies, the group simulated various scenarios capturing different intervention strategies. The results were presented on the homepage of Forschungszentrum Jülich’s website (press release from 6 November; in German) and were recently published in Influenza and other respiratory viruses. More recently, the group produced updated simulations demonstrating the possible effects of the holiday season (press release from 26 November; in German). Short-term predictions are provided to the forecast hub established at KIT (https://kitmetricslab.github.io/forecasthub/forecast).

Since there are too many factors influencing the epidemic that cannot be reliably estimated or predicted based on available data and knowledge, the simulations only show scenarios for different assumptions about these factors. In particular, long-term predictions are of a qualitative nature at best. The most reliable result predicts that a single 4-week-long shutdown – even if temporarily effective in reducing case numbers and fatalities – would not be sufficient in keeping the epidemic at bay for the rest of the winter. On the contrary, a number of contact reduction measures need to be applied throughout the next few months if further waves, and therefore repeated shutdowns, are to be avoided. This result was confirmed by the case/death counts of several countries such as France and Ireland which went into a second strict lockdown in the autumn followed by a subsequent new increase in cases shortly after the lockdown measures were lifted.

Further scenarios and simulations taking new data into account are to be provided and will address the issue of vaccinations, among other matters.

Contact: Dr. Jan Fuhrmann, j.fuhrmann@fz-juelich.de

From JSC News No. 278, 30 January 2021