Estimating effects of intervention measures on COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan taking account of improving diagnostic capabilities using a modelling approach

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Original languageEnglish
Article number424
Journal / PublicationBMC Infectious Diseases
Online published5 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021



Background: Although by late February 2020 the COVID-19 epidemic was effectively controlled in Wuhan, China, estimating the effects of interventions, such as transportation restrictions and quarantine measures, on the early COVID-19 transmission dynamics in Wuhan is critical for guiding future virus containment strategies. Since the exact number of infected cases is unknown, the number of documented cases was used by many disease transmission models to infer epidemiological parameters. This means that it was possible to produce biased estimates of epidemiological parameters and hence of the effects of intervention measures, because the percentage of all cases that were documented changed during the first 2 months of the epidemic, as a consequence of a gradually improving diagnostic capability. 

Methods: To overcome these limitations, we constructed a stochastic susceptible-exposed-infected-quarantined-recovered (SEIQR) model, accounting for intervention measures and temporal changes in the proportion of new documented infections out of total new infections, to characterize the transmission dynamics of COVID-19 in Wuhan across different stages of the outbreak. Pre-symptomatic transmission was taken into account in our model, and all epidemiological parameters were estimated using the Particle Markov-chain Monte Carlo (PMCMC) method. 

Results: Our model captured the local Wuhan epidemic pattern as two-peak transmission dynamics, with one peak on February 4 and the other on February 12, 2020. The impact of intervention measures determined the timing of the first peak, leading to an 86% drop in the Re from 3.23 (95% CI, 2.22 to 4.20) to 0.45 (95% CI, 0.20 to 0.69). The improved diagnostic capability led to the second peak and a higher proportion of documented infections. Our estimated proportion of new documented infections out of the total new infections increased from 11% (95% CI 1–43%) to 28% (95% CI 4–62%) after January 26 when more detection kits were released. After the introduction of a new diagnostic criterion (case definition) on February 12, a higher proportion of daily infected cases were documented (49% (95% CI 7–79%)). 

Conclusions: Transportation restrictions and quarantine measures together in Wuhan were able to contain local epidemic growth.

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