Estimating and forecasting the burden and spread of Colombia's SARS-CoV2 first wave.


Following the rapid dissemination of COVID-19 cases in Colombia in 2020, large-scale non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) were implemented as national emergencies in most of the country's municipalities, starting with a lockdown on March 20th, 2020. Recently, approaches that combine movement data (measured as the number of commuters between units), metapopulation models to describe disease dynamics subdividing the population into Susceptible-Exposed-Asymptomatic-Infected-Recovered-Diseased and statistical inference algorithms have been pointed as a practical approach to both nowcast and forecast the number of cases and deaths. We used an iterated filtering (IF) framework to estimate the model transmission parameters using the reported data across 281 municipalities from March to late October in locations with more than 50 reported deaths and cases in Colombia. Since the model is high dimensional (6 state variables in every municipality), inference on those parameters is highly non-trivial, so we used an Ensemble-Adjustment-Kalman-Filter (EAKF) to estimate time variable system states and parameters. Our results show the model's ability to capture the characteristics of the outbreak in the country and provide estimates of the epidemiological parameters in time at the national level. Importantly, these estimates could become the base for planning future interventions as well as evaluating the impact of NPIs on the effective reproduction number ([Formula: see text]) and the critical epidemiological parameters, such as the contact rate or the reporting rate. However, our forecast presents some inconsistency as it overestimates the deaths for some locations as Medellín. Nevertheless, our approach demonstrates that real-time, publicly available ensemble forecasts can provide short-term predictions of reported COVID-19 deaths in Colombia. Therefore, this model can be used as a forecasting tool to evaluate disease dynamics and aid policymakers in infectious outbreak management and control.

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