Retrospective analyses into the non-pharmaceutic interventions (NPIs) used to combat the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak has highlighted the potential of optimising interventions. These optimal interventions allow for policy makers to manage NPIs to minimise the epidemiological and human health impacts of both COVID-19 and the intervention itself. Here, we use a susceptible-infectious- recovered (SIR) mathematical model to explore the feasibility of optimising the duration, magnitude and trigger point of five different NPI scenarios to minimise the peak prevalence or the attack rate of a simulated UK COVID-19 outbreak.

An optimal parameter space to minimise the peak prevalence or the attack rate was identified for each intervention scenario, with each scenario differing with regards to how reductions to transmission were modelled. However, we show that these optimal interventions are fragile, sensitive to epidemiological uncertainty and prone to implementation error. We highlight the use of robust, but suboptimal interventions as an alternative, with these interventions capable of mitigating the peak prevalence or the attack rate over a broader, more achievable parameter space, but being less efficacious than theoretically optimal interventions. This work provides an illustrative example of the concept of intervention optimisation across a range of different NPI strategies.


© 2021 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.

Cite as

Morgan, A., Woolhouse, M., Medley, G. & van Bunnik, B. 2021, 'Optimising time-limited non-pharmaceutical interventions for COVID-19 outbreak control', Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 376(1829), article no: e3052. https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2020.0282

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Last updated: 04 October 2022
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