PREPRINT: COVID-19 pandemic: Impact of lockdown, contact and non-contact transmissions on infection dynamics

COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has virtually locked down the entire world of human population, and through its rapid and unstoppable spread COVID-19 has essentially compartmentalised the population merely into susceptible, exposed, infected and recovered classes. Adapting the classical epidemic modelling framework, two distinct routes of COVID-19 transmission are incorporated into a model: (a) direct person-to-person contact transmission, and (b) indirect airborne and fomites-driven transmission. The indirect non-contact transmission route needs to explored in models of COVID-19 spread, because evidences show that this route of transmission is entirely viable with hugely uncertain level of relative contribution. This theoretical study based on model simulations demonstrates the following: (1) Not incorporating indirect transmission route in the model leads to underestimation of the basic reproduction number, and hence will impact on the COVID-19 mitigation decisions; (2) Lockdown measures can suppress the primary infection peak, but will lead to a secondary peak whose relative strength and time of occurrence depend on the success and duration of the lockdown measures; (3) To make lockdown effective, a considerable level of reduction in both contact and non-contact transmission rates over a long period is required; (4) To bring down the infection cases below any hypothetical health-care capacity, reduction of non-contact transmission rate is key, and hence active measures should be taken to reduce non-contact transmission (e.g., extensive uses of areal and aerosol disinfectant in public spaces to improve contaminated surfaces and air); (5) Any premature withdrawal of lockdown following the sign of a brief retracement in the infection cases can backfire, and can lead to a quicker, sharper and higher secondary peak, due to reactivation of the two transmission routes. Based on these results, this study recommends that any exit policy from lockdown, should take into account the level of transmission reduction in both routes, the absolute scale of which will vary among countries depending on their health-service capacity, but should be computed using accurate time-series data on infection cases and transmission rates.

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