Estimating the Level of Asymptomatic COVID-19 Infections in Northern Ireland in 2020

Peter A. Hall, Gabor Kiss, Tilman Kuhn, Salissou Moutari, Ellen Patterson, Emily Smith

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The identification and understanding of COVID-19 potential routes of transmission are fundamental to informing policies and strategies to successfully control the outbreak. Various studies highlighted asymptomatic infections as one of the silent drivers of the epidemic. An accurate estimation of the asymptomatic cases and the understanding of their contribution to the spread of the disease could enhance the effectiveness of current control strategies, mainly based on the symptom onset, to curb transmission. We investigate the dynamics of the COVID-19 epidemic in Northern Ireland during the period 1st March 25th to December 2020 to estimate the proportion of the asymptomatic infections in the country. We extended our previous model to include the stage of the asymptomatic infection, and we implement the corresponding deterministic model using a publicly available dataset. We partition the data into 11 sets over the period of study and fit the model parameters on the consecutive intervals using the cumulative number of confirmed positive cases for each interval. Moreover, we assess numerically the impacts of uncertainty in testing and we provide estimates of the reproduction numbers using the fitted parameters. We found that the proportion of asymptomatically infectious subpopulations, in Northern Ireland during the period of study, ranged between 5% and 25% of exposed individuals. Also, the estimate of the basic reproduction number, R0, is 3.3089. The lower and upper estimates for herd immunity are (0.6181, 0.7243) suggesting that around 70% of the population of Northern Ireland should acquire immunity via infection or vaccination, which is in line with estimates reported in other studies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)190-218
JournalOpen Journal of Modelling and Simulation
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 28 Apr 2022


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