Scientists have created a virtual city infected with COVID-19 to prove the benefits of quarantine

The comprehensive implementation of measures to prevent infections caused by COVID-19 increases their effectiveness, while the partial implementation puts it at risk. These are the results of a study conducted by Professor Setsuya Kurahashi at the Faculty of Business Sciences of Tsukuba University using a virtual city model. About this writes J-Stage.

The team developed an agent-based virtual city computer model for assessing the consequences of travel time, distance communication, school closure, social distance, self-isolation, and various other measures used in an attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19. Modeling using this model has shown that implementing measures individually or in partial combinations gives limited results. The findings provide advice for evaluating combinations of measures that are most effective in preventing the spread of infection.

Since governments, local governments, research institutes, and the media present many measures to control the spread of COVID-19, such as washing and disinfecting hands, wearing masks, avoiding “PMT” (enclosed spaces, crowded places, close contact), self-isolation, remote communications, travel time changes, video conferencing and school closures, lack of reliable data makes it difficult to comprehensively evaluate effectiveness. This study seeks to fill this gap by simulating the COVID-19 infection process in a number of scenarios involving different behaviors.

The model compared the effectiveness of various measures against the COVID-19 infection process for the population, jobs, and schools of two virtual cities. Residents were at risk of infection when traveling to work and school, shopping, and other everyday places. Hospitalization, mortality, and the rate of infection were modeled using 27 combinations of preventive measures, including no measures at all except basic, combinations of basic measures and a combination of basic measures with less contact with other people.

Combinations that included remote access, closing schools, and self-isolation at home suggested the greatest efficacy, while measures are taken alone or in partial combinations did not lead to any reduction in hospital admissions and were not effective as measures to prevent infection.

In addition, in all the cases under consideration, older people make up a much larger proportion of hospitalized and seriously ill patients, which indicates that preventing infection among older people can lead to fewer hospital admissions and mortality in general. However, any crack in the armor was enough to jeopardize efficiency in these models, and the risk of infection remained high.

In addition, the model used in this study has already provided insight into other factors of COVID-19 distribution, including the consequences of events when crowds gather (conclusion: the type of event has a greater effect than the scale), the effects of enhanced PCR testing ( additional testing of those who may be infected can help inhibit the infection), as well as the consequences of the blockages and their duration (late and incomplete blockages led to relapses of COVID-19).

The team hopes that these studies will help expedite the search for the most effective measures to combat COVID-19.