Age-stratified discrete compartment model of the COVID-19 epidemic with application to Switzerland

Sci Rep. 2020 Dec 4;10(1):21306. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-77420-4.


Compartmental models enable the analysis and prediction of an epidemic including the number of infected, hospitalized and deceased individuals in a population. They allow for computational case studies on non-pharmaceutical interventions thereby providing an important basis for policy makers. While research is ongoing on the transmission dynamics of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, it is important to come up with epidemic models that can describe the main stages of the progression of the associated COVID-19 respiratory disease. We propose an age-stratified discrete compartment model as an alternative to differential equation based S-I-R type of models. The model captures the highly age-dependent progression of COVID-19 and is able to describe the day-by-day advancement of an infected individual in a modern health care system. The fully-identified model for Switzerland not only predicts the overall histories of the number of infected, hospitalized and deceased, but also the corresponding age-distributions. The model-based analysis of the outbreak reveals an average infection fatality ratio of 0.4% with a pronounced maximum of 9.5% for those aged ≥ 80 years. The predictions for different scenarios of relaxing the soft lockdown indicate a low risk of overloading the hospitals through a second wave of infections. However, there is a hidden risk of a significant increase in the total fatalities (by up to 200%) in case schools reopen with insufficient containment measures in place.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology*
  • COVID-19 / transmission*
  • Humans
  • Models, Statistical
  • Pandemics*
  • Physical Distancing
  • Quarantine
  • Switzerland