Researchers from the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences (LSMU) and the Lithuanian Energy Institute (LEI) call for proposals to alleviate quarantine to be evaluated very responsibly and constantly monitor how changes of the quarantine rules would affect the spread of the disease. According to them, of all the Baltic States, Lithuania complies with the quarantine rules most strictly, and the current quarantine conditions are sufficient to reduce the morbidity of the population and spread of the disease.
LSMU epidemiologists and LEI mathematical modeling experts developed a model predicting the spread of COVID-19 infection in Lithuania. It factors in and evaluates the effect of quarantine in halting the spread of the disease. Scientists are united to a taskforce to stop the pandemic in Lithuania – www.united4health.lt
Forecast model developers review it daily and update data from a variety of sources. From 10th of April, COVID-19 infection prevalence forecast will be published daily at website of the University – www.lsmu.lt
Two scenarios are forecasted:
- First (realistic) scenario: If during the Easter period, public compliance with quarantine would worsen from the current 53 percent to 47 percent (see Figure 1), in Lithuania we would reach the peak of the incidence of COVID-19 infection on April 24th, with the number of active patients ranging from 2200 to 2700.
Fig.1. Number of COVID19 patients, if during the Easter period, public compliance with quarantine would worsen from the current 53 percent to 47 percent.
- Second (optimistic) scenario: If compliance with quarantine measures remains as effective (53%), the peak of COVID-19 patients would still be reached at April 24th and range between only 1,100 to 1,500 active cases (see Figure 2).
Fig.2. Number of COVID19 patients, if compliance with quarantine measures remains as effective (53%).
Researchers note, that in order to achieve this optimistic scenario, quarantine restrictions must continue to apply in Republic of Lithuania. According to them, the current 53 percent effectiveness of the quarantine is sufficient to stop the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the number of patients.
The model developed by LSMU and LEI scientists shows, that if the efficiency of quarantine decreases significantly (to 25%) in April, it is likely that the number of COVID-19 active cases in May could be as high as 20 thousand and would continue to grow exponentially. If this were to happen, a huge number of patients would overload the healthcare system, which is currently working efficiently and is able to handle all cases of COVID-19 appropriately.
Based on the modelling, it is assumed that if the quarantine conditions are complied with effectively, the current wave of the epidemic will subside by the second half of May.
This is a theoretical case where quarantine is introduced when the epidemic is in full swing. When the epidemic due to prevention subsides, quarantine is terminated. But since the infected people are still present in the population, the second wave of the epidemic begins, during which everyone, who has not yet contracted the disease fall ill – until population immunity is achieved, the number of patients could reach up to 500 thousand active cases. This is likely as the general public would probably not have acquired immunity and the vaccine would not have been developed by then (see Figure 3).
Fig.3. Theoretical model where quarantine is introduced when the epidemic is in full swing. When the epidemic due to prevention subsides, quarantine is terminated.
In order to make the predictions more accurate and better anticipate possible new coronavirus waves in the future, it is important to determine the degree of viral aggression and infectivity (virulence) and also to monitor the effectiveness of quarantine. It is especially important to know the number of people who do not experience symptoms of COVID-19 but are infected and have already acquired immunity to the disease.
LSMU is also currently planning to conduct epidemiological and genomic studies of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This will allow to find out the number of COVID-19 infected people, who have already had the disease and to evaluate the virus strains in Lithuania, also evaluating the peculiarities of the disease caused by it.