Estimating the Global Spread of COVID-19
57 Pages Posted: 1 Jul 2020
Date Written: June 24, 2020
Limited and inconsistent testing and differences in age distribution, health care resources, social distancing, and policies have caused large variations in the extent and dynamics of the COVID-19 pandemic across nations, complicating the estimation of prevalence, the infection fatality rate (IFR), and other factors important to care providers and policymakers. Using data for all 84 countries with reliable testing data (spanning 4.75 billion people) we develop a dynamic epidemiological model integrating data on cases, deaths, excess mortality and other factors to estimate how asymptomatic transmission, disease acuity, hospitalization, and behavioral and policy responses to risk condition prevalence and IFR across nations and over time. For these nations we estimate IFR averages 0.68% (0.64%-0.7%). Cases and deaths through June 18, 2020 are estimated to be 11.8 and 1.48 times official reports, respectively, at 88.5 (85-95.3) million and 600 (586-622) thousand. Prevalence and IFR vary substantially, e.g., Ecuador (18%; 0.61%), Chile (15.5%; 0.57%), Mexico (8.8%; 0.69%), Iran (7.9%; 0.44%), USA (5.3%; 0.99%), UK (5.2%; 1.59%), Iceland (1.65%, 0.56%), New Zealand (0.1%, 0.64%), but all nations remain well below the level needed for herd immunity. By alerting the public earlier and reducing contacts, extensive testing when the pandemic was declared could have averted 35.3 (32.7-42.7) million cases and 197 (171-232) thousand deaths. However, future outcomes are less dependent on testing and more contingent on the willingness of communities and governments to reduce transmission. Absent breakthroughs in treatment or vaccination and with mildly improved responses we project 249 (186-586) million cases and 1.75 (1.40-3.67) million deaths in the 84 countries by Spring 2021.
Note: Funding: No funding was used to conduct this study.
Conflict of Interest: The authors declare no competing interests.
Keywords: COVID-19, Infection, Simulation, Asymptomatic, Infection Fatality Rate, Testing
JEL Classification: I1
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation