What can mathematical modelling tell us about the transmission of coronavirus over the upcoming years?

Lockdown, Virus, Self-Quarantine, Responsibility

Bottom Line:

The data obtained through mathematical modelling tells us that prolonged and intermittent social distancing may be necessary until 2022.


Kissler, S.M. et al. Projecting the Transmission Dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 through the Postpandemic Period. Science (2020). DOI: 10.1126/science.abb5793

Date Published:

14 April 2020


It is currently unknown how SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) will spread following the current pandemic wave. To estimate the spread of SARS-CoV-2 over the next few years, researchers from the United States have created a mathematical model using previous data from two related human coronaviruses (OC43 and HKU1) which cause the common cold. Their model estimates that there will be recurrent outbreaks over the winter after the initial pandemic wave. Most notably, the model also suggests that intermittent social distancing measures may need to be maintained until 2022 in order to avoid exceeding critical care capacities. Finally, the authors suggest that the virus could be contagious up to 2024, meaning that close observation of the virus will be needed until then. One drawback of this study is that the model assumes that humans will develop immunity to SARS-CoV-2 in the same way that they have developed immunity to OC43 and HKU1. However, this has yet to be proven. As a result, more serological studies (studies looking at antibodies in patients’ blood) are needed to determine how immune humans are to SARS-CoV-2.

Summary by: Louis Huynh