Background: Health-care resource constraints in low-income and middle-income countries necessitate the identification of cost-effective public health interventions to address COVID-19. We aimed to develop a dynamic COVID-19 microsimulation model to assess clinical and economic outcomes and cost-effectiveness of epidemic control strategies in KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa.
Methods: We compared different combinations of five public health interventions: health-care testing alone, where diagnostic testing is done only for individuals presenting to health-care centres; contact tracing in households of cases; isolation centres, for cases not requiring hospital admission; mass symptom screening and molecular testing for symptomatic individuals by community health-care workers; and quarantine centres, for household contacts who test negative. We calibrated infection transmission rates to match effective reproduction number (Re) estimates reported in South Africa. We assessed two main epidemic scenarios for a period of 360 days, with an Re of 1·5 and 1·2. Strategies with incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) of less than US$3250 per year of life saved were considered cost-effective. We also did sensitivity analyses by varying key parameters (Re values, molecular testing sensitivity, and efficacies and costs of interventions) to determine the effect on clinical and cost projections.
Findings: When Re was 1·5, health-care testing alone resulted in the highest number of COVID-19 deaths during the 360-day period. Compared with health-care testing alone, a combination of health-care testing, contact tracing, use of isolation centres, mass symptom screening, and use of quarantine centres reduced mortality by 94%, increased health-care costs by 33%, and was cost-effective (ICER $340 per year of life saved). In settings where quarantine centres were not feasible, a combination of health-care testing, contact tracing, use of isolation centres, and mass symptom screening was cost-effective compared with health-care testing alone (ICER $590 per year of life saved). When Re was 1·2, health-care testing, contact tracing, use of isolation centres, and use of quarantine centres was the least costly strategy, and no other strategies were cost-effective. In sensitivity analyses, a combination of health-care testing, contact tracing, use of isolation centres, mass symptom screening, and use of quarantine centres was generally cost-effective, with the exception of scenarios in which Re was 2·6 and when efficacies of isolation centres and quarantine centres for transmission reduction were reduced.
Interpretation: In South Africa, strategies involving household contact tracing, isolation, mass symptom screening, and quarantining household contacts who test negative would substantially reduce COVID-19 mortality and would be cost-effective. The optimal combination of interventions depends on epidemic growth characteristics and practical implementation considerations.
Funding: US National Institutes of Health, Royal Society, Wellcome Trust.
Copyright © 2021 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an Open Access article under the CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license. Published by Elsevier Ltd.. All rights reserved.