Researchers at the UPC and the IGTP use mathematical models to evaluate the evolution of the COVID-19 epidemic and the effectiveness of the control measures

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Clara Prats, from the UPC’s Computational Biology and Complex Systems Group, with Martí Català and Pere Joan Cardona, both from the IGTP, are part of the research team working on the mathematical model

About the research team

The team that has developed this model is a multidisciplinary group made up of biophysicists and doctors who work mainly on the integration of mathematical models to study the evolution of infectious diseases and as an alternative to research on animals.

A team of researchers from the UPC’s Computational Biology and Complex Systems Group (BIOCOM-SC) and the Comparative Medicine and Bioimage Centre of Catalonia (CMCiB) of the Germans Trias i Pujol Research Institute (IGTP) has developed a mathematical model to monitor the epidemic of COVID-19 with the support of La Caixa Foundation. The report that they have produced for the European Union Strategy Office is updated every day and includes predictions for Catalonia, Spain and the European Union. The model also serves to analyse the efficiency of the measures being implemented in several countries.

Mar 27, 2020

The research team, formed by Clara Prats, Sergio Alonso and Daniel López Codina, from the Computational Biology and Complex Systems Group (BIOCOM-SC) of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya · BarcelonaTech (UPC); Martí Català, from the Comparative Medicine and Bioimage Centre of Catalonia of the Germans Trias i Pujol Research Institute (CMCiB-IGTP); and Pere-Joan Cardona, of the IGTP, has been analysing the data on COVID-19 incidence in several countries for weeks. They have developed a mathematical model that allows them to quantify cases by area (for example, autonomous communities) and country and predict its evolution over three days. The report, which is produced and updated every day, is sent to the European Commission’s Digital Excellence and Science Infrastructure Directorate, led by Thomas Skordas. Researchers from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the Joint Research Centre and Imperial College London are also in the team.

The resulting mathematical model has been working for the last two weeks, making short-term predictions for several European countries with a confidence level of 99% and therefore a correctly adjusted success rate for nearly all the predictions. Soon, when they are sure it is working, predictions over a week will be included. The results of the model are included every day in the report on the situation sent to the European working group.

The report aims to provide a global picture of the situation of the pandemic of COVID-19 in European countries and to predict the situation for the coming days. Using an empirical model, checked against the number of confirmed cases in the countries where the epidemic is about to come to an end, which includes all the provinces in China, the model does not predict the evolution of cases, but it does evaluate the quality of the control measures in place in each country and make a short-term prediction.

Predictions

The predictions made for Catalonia on 17 March indicated that on 18 March there would be 1,830 cases and the data for 18 March indicates 1,866 cases. The model is working correctly. For Catalonia the predictions point to 850 new cases for today (19 March) and 1,288 new cases for tomorrow (20 March). For Spain the predictions are 3,256 new cases for today and 3,810 new cases for tomorrow.


It is important to bear in mind that the effects of measures implemented on one particular day are not seen until approximately five to seven days later. In line with this, for Spain it is important to have the tool ready and working this coming weekend when it will be six days since the declaration of the state of emergency. The availability of reliable tools like this can help in decision making now and above all help to manage future situations.

An updated version of the report with graphs and predictions for Catalonia, Spain and the European Union can be found daily at: https://biocomsc.upc.edu/en/covid-19