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Predicting effectiveness of countermeasures during the COVID-19 outbreak in South Africa using agent-based simulation


  • Moritz Kersting

    (Next Generation Mobility Group, Department of Dynamics of Complex Fluids, Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization
    Chair of Regional Management and Business Promotion, Faculty of Resource Management, HAWK University for Applied Sciences and Art
    Technical University of Dresden
    Technical University of Dresden)

  • Andreas Bossert

    (Next Generation Mobility Group, Department of Dynamics of Complex Fluids, Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization
    Technical University of Dresden
    Technical University of Dresden
    Center of Methods in Social Sciences, Department of Social Sciences, Georg-August-University of Göttingen)

  • Leif Sörensen

    (Next Generation Mobility Group, Department of Dynamics of Complex Fluids, Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization
    Technical University of Dresden
    Technical University of Dresden
    Thinktank of Aeronautics, Aerodynamics and Aerospace Technology)

  • Benjamin Wacker

    (Next Generation Mobility Group, Department of Dynamics of Complex Fluids, Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization
    Department of Engineering and Natural Sciences, University of Applied Sciences Merseburg)

  • Jan Chr. Schlüter

    (Next Generation Mobility Group, Department of Dynamics of Complex Fluids, Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization
    Technical University of Dresden
    Technical University of Dresden
    Institute for the Dynamics of Complex Systems, Faculty of Physics, Georg-August-University of Göttingen)


COVID-19 has spread rapidly around the globe. While there has been a slow down of the spread in some countries, e.g., in China, the African continent is still at the beginning of a potentially wide spread of the virus. Owing to its economic strength and imbalances, South Africa is of particular relevance with regard to the drastic measures to prevent the spread of this novel coronavirus. In March 2020, South Africa imposed one of the most severe lockdowns worldwide and subsequently faced the number of infections slowing down considerably. In May 2020, this lockdown was partially relaxed and further easing of restrictions was envisaged. In July and August 2020, daily new infections peaked and declined subsequently. Lockdown measures were further relaxed. This study aims to assess the recent and upcoming measures from an epidemiological perspective. Agent-based epidemic simulations are used to depict the effects of policy measures on the further course of this epidemic. The results indicate that measures that are either lifted too early or are too lenient have no sufficient mitigating effects on infection rates. Consequently, continuous exponential infection growth rates or a second significant peak of infected people occur. These outcomes are likely to cause higher mortality rates once healthcare capacities are occupied and no longer capable to treat all severely and critically infected COVID-19 patients. In contrast, strict measures appear to be a suitable way to contain the virus. The simulations imply that the initial lockdown of 27 March 2020 was probably sufficient to slow the growth in the number of infections, but relaxing countermeasures might allow for a second severe outbreak of COVID-19 in our investigated simulation region of Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality.

Suggested Citation

  • Moritz Kersting & Andreas Bossert & Leif Sörensen & Benjamin Wacker & Jan Chr. Schlüter, 2021. "Predicting effectiveness of countermeasures during the COVID-19 outbreak in South Africa using agent-based simulation," Palgrave Communications, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 8(1), pages 1-15, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:pal:palcom:v:8:y:2021:i:1:d:10.1057_s41599-021-00830-w
    DOI: 10.1057/s41599-021-00830-w

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    References listed on IDEAS

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