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ORIGINAL ARTICLE
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Prudent public health intervention strategies to control the coronavirus disease 2019 transmission in India: A mathematical model-based approach


1 Translational Global Health Policy Research Cell (Department of Health Research), Indian Council of Medical Research, New Delhi, India
2 ICMR School of Public Health, ICMR-National Institute of Epidemiology, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
3 Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, School of Public Health, Imperial College, St Mary’s Hospital, London, United Kingdom
4 ICMR-National Institute of Epidemiology, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
5 Division of Epidemiology & Communicable Diseases, Indian Council of Medical Research, New Delhi, India

Correspondence Address:
Tarun Bhatnagar,
ICMR-National Institute of Epidemiology, Ayapakkam, Chennai 600 077, Tamil Nadu
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijmr.IJMR_504_20

PMID: 32202261

Background & objectives: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has raised urgent questions about containment and mitigation, particularly in countries where the virus has not yet established human-to-human transmission. The objectives of this study were to find out if it was possible to prevent, or delay, the local outbreaks of COVID-19 through restrictions on travel from abroad and if the virus has already established in-country transmission, to what extent would its impact be mitigated through quarantine of symptomatic patients? Methods: These questions were addressed in the context of India, using simple mathematical models of infectious disease transmission. While there remained important uncertainties in the natural history of COVID-19, using hypothetical epidemic curves, some key findings were illustrated that appeared insensitive to model assumptions, as well as highlighting critical data gaps. Results: It was assumed that symptomatic quarantine would identify and quarantine 50 per cent of symptomatic individuals within three days of developing symptoms. In an optimistic scenario of the basic reproduction number (R00) being 1.5, and asymptomatic infections lacking any infectiousness, such measures would reduce the cumulative incidence by 62 per cent. In the pessimistic scenario of R0=4, and asymptomatic infections being half as infectious as symptomatic, this projected impact falls to two per cent. Interpretation & conclusions : Port-of-entry-based entry screening of travellers with suggestive clinical features and from COVID-19-affected countries, would achieve modest delays in the introduction of the virus into the community. Acting alone, however, such measures would be insufficient to delay the outbreak by weeks or longer. Once the virus establishes transmission within the community, quarantine of symptomatics may have a meaningful impact on disease burden. Model projections are subject to substantial uncertainty and can be further refined as more is understood about the natural history of infection of this novel virus. As a public health measure, health system and community preparedness would be critical to control any impending spread of COVID-19 in the country.


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