Control with uncertain data of socially structured compartmental epidemic models

J Math Biol. 2021 May 23;82(7):63. doi: 10.1007/s00285-021-01617-y.


The adoption of containment measures to reduce the amplitude of the epidemic peak is a key aspect in tackling the rapid spread of an epidemic. Classical compartmental models must be modified and studied to correctly describe the effects of forced external actions to reduce the impact of the disease. The importance of social structure, such as the age dependence that proved essential in the recent COVID-19 pandemic, must be considered, and in addition, the available data are often incomplete and heterogeneous, so a high degree of uncertainty must be incorporated into the model from the beginning. In this work we address these aspects, through an optimal control formulation of a socially structured epidemic model in presence of uncertain data. After the introduction of the optimal control problem, we formulate an instantaneous approximation of the control that allows us to derive new feedback controlled compartmental models capable of describing the epidemic peak reduction. The need for long-term interventions shows that alternative actions based on the social structure of the system can be as effective as the more expensive global strategy. The timing and intensity of interventions, however, is particularly relevant in the case of uncertain parameters on the actual number of infected people. Simulations related to data from the first wave of the recent COVID-19 outbreak in Italy are presented and discussed.

Keywords: COVID-19; Epidemic modelling; Non-pharmaceutical interventions; Optimal control; Social structure; Uncertainty quantification.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 / epidemiology*
  • COVID-19 / prevention & control
  • COVID-19 / transmission
  • Computer Simulation
  • Humans
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Models, Statistical*
  • Pandemics / prevention & control
  • Pandemics / statistics & numerical data*
  • SARS-CoV-2 / pathogenicity
  • Social Factors*
  • Uncertainty