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Article

COVID-19 in Slovenia, from a Success Story to Disaster: What Lessons Can Be Learned?

1
Faculty of Medicine, Institute for Biostatistics and Medical Informatics, University of Ljubljana, Vrazov trg 2, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
2
Faculty of Sports, University of Ljubljana, Gortanova 22, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
3
Faculty of Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Information Technologies, University of Primorska, Glagoljaška 8, 6000 Koper, Slovenia
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Jong-Hoon Kim and Andrej Kastrin
Life 2021, 11(10), 1045; https://doi.org/10.3390/life11101045
Received: 30 August 2021 / Revised: 29 September 2021 / Accepted: 30 September 2021 / Published: 4 October 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Artificial Intelligence with Applications in Life Sciences)
During the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in spring 2020, Slovenia was among the least affected countries, but the situation became drastically worse during the second wave in autumn 2020 with high numbers of deaths per number of inhabitants, ranking Slovenia among the most affected countries. This was true even though strict non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to control the progression of the epidemic were being enforced. Using a semi-parametric Bayesian model developed for the purpose of this study, we explore if and how the changes in mobility, their timing and the activation of contact tracing can explain the differences in the epidemic progression of the two waves. To fit the model, we use data on daily numbers of deaths, patients in hospitals, intensive care units, etc., and allow transmission intensity to be affected by contact tracing and mobility (data obtained from Google Mobility Reports). Our results imply that though there is some heterogeneity not explained by mobility levels and contact tracing, implementing interventions at a similar stage as in the first wave would keep the death toll and the health system burden low in the second wave as well. On the other hand, sticking to the same timeline of interventions as observed in the second wave and focusing on enforcing a higher decrease in mobility would not be as beneficial. According to our model, the ‘dance’ strategy, i.e., first allowing the numbers to rise and then implementing strict interventions to make them drop again, has been played at too-late stages of the epidemic. In contrast, a 15–20% reduction of mobility compared to pre-COVID level, if started at the beginning and maintained for the entire duration of the second wave and coupled with contact tracing, could suffice to control the epidemic. A very important factor in this result is the presence of contact tracing; without it, the reduction in mobility needs to be substantially larger. The flexibility of our proposed model allows similar analyses to be conducted for other regions even with slightly different data sources for the progression of the epidemic; the extension to more than two waves is straightforward. The model could help policymakers worldwide to make better decisions in terms of the timing and severity of the adopted NPIs. View Full-Text
Keywords: modeling epidemics; Bayesian inference; discrete renewal process; COVID-19; non-pharmaceutical interventions; reproduction number modeling epidemics; Bayesian inference; discrete renewal process; COVID-19; non-pharmaceutical interventions; reproduction number
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MDPI and ACS Style

Ružić Gorenjec, N.; Kejžar, N.; Manevski, D.; Pohar Perme, M.; Vratanar, B.; Blagus, R. COVID-19 in Slovenia, from a Success Story to Disaster: What Lessons Can Be Learned? Life 2021, 11, 1045. https://doi.org/10.3390/life11101045

AMA Style

Ružić Gorenjec N, Kejžar N, Manevski D, Pohar Perme M, Vratanar B, Blagus R. COVID-19 in Slovenia, from a Success Story to Disaster: What Lessons Can Be Learned? Life. 2021; 11(10):1045. https://doi.org/10.3390/life11101045

Chicago/Turabian Style

Ružić Gorenjec, Nina, Nataša Kejžar, Damjan Manevski, Maja Pohar Perme, Bor Vratanar, and Rok Blagus. 2021. "COVID-19 in Slovenia, from a Success Story to Disaster: What Lessons Can Be Learned?" Life 11, no. 10: 1045. https://doi.org/10.3390/life11101045

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