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Mathematics: Modelling the timings of a COVID-19 second wave in Europe

New forecast model can easily be adjusted and used by authorities, the industry, etc.

By Birgitte Svennevig, , 9/23/2020

How a second wave of COVID-19 infections may evolve across Europe over the next few months, using data on infection rates and travel within and between European countries, is modelled in a new  paper in the science journal Scientific Reports.

The findings suggest that a second wave in Europe will occur between July 2020 and January 2021 and that the precise timing of peaks in infection rates for each country could be controlled via social distancing, control of local hotspots and border control measures.

Using data from the first wave, but allowing for a variation of 15% in infection rates, Giacomo Cacciapaglia, Corentin Cot, University of Lyon and Francesco Sannino, University of Southern Denmark, showed that the timing of second wave peaks is strongly dependent on infection rates, with sooner peaks expected for countries with higher rates of infection.

Social distancing works

Social distancing measures and responsible individual behaviour, if implemented early on, can have a strong effect on when peaks occur.

Taking into account the current situation in Europe where ten countries – Belgium, Bosnia, Croatia, Czechia, Greece, the Netherlands, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain – showed the beginnings of a second wave in early August, the authors modelled the temporal dynamics of a second wave for all countries within Europe and created a video simulation of when a second wave is likely to peak in each country.

Easy to adjust

The results show that peaks are likely to occur between July 2020 and January 2021, but the precise timing for each country could potentially be controlled via border control and social distancing measures, as well as control of local hotspots.

The model, which can be easily adjusted as new data becomes available, may be a useful tool for governments, financial markets, industry and individual citizens to prepare in advance and possibly counter the threat of recurring pandemic waves, the authors suggest.

See also Francesco Sannino’s talk on The Pandemic Playbook at Danish Institute of Advanced Science 

Previous COVID-19 related science from Professor Francesco Sannino


Professor Francesco Sannino's research field is theoretical physics. Apart from SDU, he is also at Danish Institute of Advanced Science and Professor Federico II Univ. in Italy.

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Editing was completed: 23.09.2020