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expert reaction to paper modelling impact of population-wide interventions in Italy on COVID-19 epidemic

A study, published in Nature Medicine, reports modelling of the impact of population-wide interventions in Italy on COVID-19 epidemic.


Dr Penny Ward, Visiting Professor in pharmaceutical medicine at Kings College London and the Chair of the Education and Standards Committee of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine, said:

“Is this good quality research backed up by data?


“What are important findings from this paper?

This paper proposes a new algorithm for predicting the impact of control measures on spread of infection based on data acquired from the field during the Italian outbreak; it includes the potential for transmission from asymptomatic as well as symptomatic cases.

“What are the limitations of the paper?

The assumptions are based on best fit modelling from field data but does include extrapolations on cluster size.

“How transferable is this modelling to other parts of Europe/ elsewhere in the world?

“Most transmission occurs in households; in countries with a large proportion of single person households, transmission rates may be lower.

“What does it suggest about how countries leave a lockdown situation and the role of testing?

“It emphasises that, once the outbreak is controlled, rigorous regular testing of the population with quarantining of detected cases (all asymptomatic and symptomatic) AND of their close contacts over the period of infectivity will be needed to prevent a new epidemic outbreak.

“Any other comments?

“There are a multiplicity of models which aim to do the same thing, broadly, all of them suggest the same conclusions.”


Prof Keith Neal, Emeritus Professor of the Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases, University of Nottingham, said:

“Although the model follows the outbreak in Italy and shows that social distancing is important, it does not inform us in any way which parts of social distancing are more important than others, it can only model the process as a whole entity.  What we need to know is what bits of social distancing are least important so these can be lifted in time and this model does not do this.

“The model has been made to fit the data for Italy.  We know that the epidemic has behaved differently across Europe, compare Germany and Sweden.  The data can only accurately relate to Italy. 

“We already know the importance of testing, case finding, contact tracing and isolation.”


“Modelling the COVID-19 epidemic and implementation of population-wide interventions in Italy” by Giulia Giordano et al. was published in Nature Medicine on Wednesday 22 April

DOI: 10.1038/s41591-020-0883-7


All our previous output on this subject can be seen at this weblink:


Declared interests

None received.

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