Modeling the spread of COVID-19 in Germany: Early assessment and possible scenarios

PLoS One. 2020 Sep 4;15(9):e0238559. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0238559. eCollection 2020.


The novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), identified in China at the end of December 2019 and causing the disease COVID-19, has meanwhile led to outbreaks all over the globe with about 2.2 million confirmed cases and more than 150,000 deaths as of April 17, 2020. In this work, mathematical models are used to reproduce data of the early evolution of the COVID-19 outbreak in Germany, taking into account the effect of actual and hypothetical non-pharmaceutical interventions. Systems of differential equations of SEIR type are extended to account for undetected infections, stages of infection, and age groups. The models are calibrated on data until April 5. Data from April 6 to 14 are used for model validation. We simulate different possible strategies for the mitigation of the current outbreak, slowing down the spread of the virus and thus reducing the peak in daily diagnosed cases, the demand for hospitalization or intensive care units admissions, and eventually the number of fatalities. Our results suggest that a partial (and gradual) lifting of introduced control measures could soon be possible if accompanied by further increased testing activity, strict isolation of detected cases, and reduced contact to risk groups.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • COVID-19
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Communicable Disease Control / methods
  • Communicable Disease Control / statistics & numerical data
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Coronavirus Infections / prevention & control
  • Coronavirus Infections / transmission
  • Disease Transmission, Infectious / statistics & numerical data
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Pandemics / prevention & control
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / prevention & control
  • Pneumonia, Viral / transmission

Grants and funding

Forschungszentrum Jülich (FZJ) GmbH provided support in the form of salaries for JF, JHM, SK, and ThL, but did not have any additional role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. The specific roles of these authors are articulated in the ‘author contributions’ section. The work of MVB was partially supported by the LOEWE focus Center for Multiscale Modelling in Life Sciences (CMMS). There was no additional external funding received for this study.