How many COVID-19 patients will soon have to go to hospital? How many of them need intensive medical care? To make such predictions, researchers from Saarbrücken have developed a mathematical model that provides precise results for all German states based on extensive data. According to a press release, the scenarios in the online simulator show that there could be 20,000 new cases of infection per day in Germany in two to three weeks if the infection rate remains as high as it is at present.
Almost daily, new record levels of new infections with the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 are reported in Germany. And in all probability, the COVID-19 case numbers will continue to rise. According to researchers, there could soon be up to 20,000 new cases of infection per day.
Scientists at Saarland University regularly publish detailed forecasts for all German states, which are intended to help politicians and the health care system make decisions. “Unfortunately, we are currently seeing a sharp increase in the reproductive rate (R-value), which indicates how many people an infected person infects on average. In Germany, the R-value is currently estimated at 1.56, in Saarland it is already at 2.0, which means that one infected person infects an average of two other people,” explains Thorsten Lehr, Professor of Clinical Pharmacy at Saarland University.
Strong increase in the number of reproductions
“This means that a significant increase in hospital occupancy is also to be expected. If the infection situation continues as it is at present, we expect in individual German states such as Saarland in two to four weeks as many COVID-19 patients in the normal and intensive care units as were seen at peak times in the first wave in mid-April,” warns the expert, who together with his team and research colleagues has developed the mathematical model on which the online simulator is also based.
The investigations of the Saarbrücken researchers have confirmed the assumption that the number of hospital patients is strongly dependent on the age of the infected persons. “At present, it is mainly younger people who are infected, and the number of hospitalized patients including intensive care patients is correspondingly low. However, in two to three weeks we expect a sevenfold increase in the intensive care required in comparison to the summer and assume that there will be 200,000 Covid19 patients, i.e. active cases, nationwide if the infection rates remain as they are at present,” explains Prof. Lehr. Then there will also be a greater mix of older population groups and more older people could be affected.
“The number of deaths is already rising in a worrying way. It could rise sharply with a delay of several weeks, as one fifth of Covid19 intensive care patients still die. Our calculations have confirmed this,” said Lehr. If even more people over 60 fell ill, they could fill the intensive care beds that are currently still available faster than was to be expected after the comparatively quiet summer. “Our simulation model does not currently reflect such a dramatic increase in the figures, as we cannot yet predict the future age structure of patients,” says the pharmacy professor. At the same time, however, he warns that even if it were possible to bring the reproduction rate back below the value 1 by the beginning of November, daily case numbers of more than 10,000 infected persons can still be expected nationwide by the end of the year.
Even at the beginning of the corona pandemic, there was great concern in Germany that intensive care beds and ventilation places in hospitals would not be sufficient. “We therefore not only recorded the number of Covid-19 patients, their inpatient treatment and deaths, but also analyzed the existing capacities in German hospitals. This enabled us to predict at a very early stage how many hospital beds, intensive care places or ventilation places would be needed for the respective infection rates,” explains Prof. Lehr.
The researchers have developed a mathematical model that can be applied in principle to any country, provided the appropriate data basis is available. “In the meantime, we have developed this model not only for Germany, but also for the USA, France, Italy, Spain and Great Britain. For these countries, too, we can accurately predict various scenarios and calculate what would happen if, for example, the ban on contact were to be ignored,” the expert explains. Prof. Lehr points out that any interested layperson can use the online simulator to play through what would happen if the reproduction rate were to change. (ad)
As stated in the communication, the special feature of this COVID-19 research project is the broad database used for the complex calculations: In addition to the surveys of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) as well as the district and state health authorities, the researched corona case numbers of the “Berliner Morgenpost”, for example, are supplemented. In addition, clinical data of more than 8,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients from over 100 German hospitals and various data from the health ministries are evaluated. “We are also analyzing how the political interventions during the pandemic will affect the incidence of infection. Our tables and diagrams show exactly what effects, for example, contact restrictions or school closure had. We use these findings for our forecasts and are thus continuously improving the underlying simulation model. We are very pleased with how precisely our calculations can predict actual developments,” says Thorsten Lehr.
Significant increase in corona cases predicted
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