Researchers at Qatar University (QU), Weill Cornell Medicine – Qatar (WCM-Q), Ministry of Public Health, and Hamad Medical Corporation have developed a sophisticated mathematical model to inform the national COVID-19 public-health response, and to help formulate evidence-based policy decisions to minimize the pandemic’s toll on health, society, and the economy.
The modeling study, published in the Journal of Global Health, was implemented in real-time, before the first case of community transmission of COVID-19 in Qatar, and was continuously updated and refined as more data became available. The model predicted with reasonable accuracy the key epidemiologic indicators, such as the epidemic peak and the impact of easing of restrictions, as well as health care needs.
The study allowed monitoring of the effective reproduction number of the virus (known as Rt), which is a key measure of how fast the virus is spreading in the population. The plan for the easing of restrictions was implemented based on this estimate for Rt. This science-based approach proved to be a successful strategy as no second wave has materialized after more than seven months of the epidemic peak.
“The forecasts were quite close to what happened eventually. Qatar was able to prepare well for what was coming, and at no time was the health system overwhelmed with COVID-19 disease burden”, said Dr. Houssein Ayoub, lead author of the study and Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics, Statistics, and Physics at QU.
The study found that Qatar was able to flatten the epidemic curve. The public health interventions reduced the epidemic peaks for both acute-care hospital admissions and ICU hospital admissions by more than 75 percent, thereby reducing the toll of the epidemic to a manageable level for the health care system. The study also found that the vast majority of infections estimated to have occurred did not require hospitalization. The low infection severity appears to be a consequence of the young age profile of the population, in addition to a well-funded health care system that emphasizes a proactive, high-quality standard of care.
Dr. Laith Abu-Raddad, leader of the study team and Professor of Healthcare Policy and Research at WCM-Q, said “Qatar successfully based its COVID-19 public health response on science-based epidemiological approaches including mathematical modeling. This science-based approach continues to inform an effective public health response and to plan for more interventions such as vaccinations.”
Dr. Temadher Al-Maadeed, head of the Department of Mathematics, Statistics, and Physics, and Assistant Professor at QU, said “I am very proud that our mathematicians are having a leading role in this important research that affects our daily lives.”, she concluded.