Correlation of national and healthcare workers COVID-19 infection data; implications for large-scale viral testing programs

PLoS One. 2021 Apr 23;16(4):e0250699. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0250699. eCollection 2021.


Time analysis of the course of an infectious disease epidemic is a critical way to understand the dynamics of pathogen transmission and the effect of population scale interventions. Computational methods have been applied to the progression of the COVID-19 outbreak in five different countries (Ireland, Germany, UK, South Korea and Iceland) using their reported daily infection data. A Gaussian convolution smoothing function constructed a continuous epidemic line profile that was segmented into longitudinal time series of mathematically fitted individual logistic curves. The time series of fitted curves allowed comparison of disease progression with differences in decreasing daily infection numbers following the epidemic peak being of specific interest. A positive relationship between the rate of declining infections and countries with comprehensive COVID-19 testing regimes existed. Insight into different rates of decline infection numbers following the wave peak was also possible which could be a useful tool to guide the reopening of societies. In contrast, extended epidemic timeframes were recorded for those least prepared for large-scale testing and contact tracing. As many countries continue to struggle to implement population wide testing it is prudent to explore additional measures that could be employed. Comparative analysis of healthcare worker (HCW) infection data from Ireland shows it closely related to that of the entire population with respect to trends of daily infection numbers and growth rates over a 57-day period. With 31.6% of all test-confirmed infections in healthcare workers (all employees of healthcare facilities), they represent a concentrated 3% subset of the national population which if exhaustively tested (regardless of symptom status) could provide valuable information on disease progression in the entire population (or set). Mathematically, national population and HCWs can be viewed as a set and subset with significant influences on each other, with solidarity between both an essential ingredient for ending this crisis.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology
  • COVID-19 / pathology*
  • COVID-19 / transmission
  • COVID-19 / virology
  • COVID-19 Testing
  • Databases, Factual
  • Health Personnel / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Ireland / epidemiology
  • Logistic Models
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • SARS-CoV-2 / isolation & purification

Grant support

The authors received no specific funding for this work. RCSI provided support in the form of salaries for authors [DW, DOS] and IBM provided support in the form of salary for author [PMA] 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.