A couple more IMS members wrote to share what they have been working on, around COVID-19. If you’d like a mention in the next issue, please contact ims@imstat.org (send a paragraph about your work, and a link to the paper, or location where interested readers can find out more). Our next deadline is December 1, then February 1.

Ioannis Kontoyiannis
Department of Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics, University of Cambridge, UK

Ioannis writes, “In collaboration with Jussi Taipale (a colleague from Biochemistry here in Cambridge) and Sten Linarsson (a molecular biologist at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm), we propose a non-pharmaceutical intervention that would allow rapid control of the Covid-19 pandemic. The intervention is based on: (1) randomly testing every individual, (2) repeatedly, and (3) isolation of infected individuals. Using both a deterministic SIR model, and randomized, continuous-time Reed–Forest epidemic models on general random networks, we rigorously determine the necessary rate of testing for the pandemic to be quickly suppressed. Our results imply that the reproduction number of Covid-19 can be brought well below 1, even with rapid antigen tests having very low sensitivity, with limited quarantine compliance, and with perfectly realistic testing rates. Moreover, we show that this approach is robust to failure — any rate of testing will significantly reduce the size of the pandemic, improving both public health and economic conditions.

The research is available as a preprint and as a seminar talk


Klaus Krickeberg
Retired Professor of Statistics

IMS Fellow Klaus Krickeberg, together with Bernhelm Booß-Bavnbek, wrote an article called “Dynamics and Control of Covid-19: Comments by Two Mathematicians” that appeared in the September 2020 issue of the Newsletter of the European Mathematical Society. In the article, they pose the question: “Why are the dynamics and control of Covid-19 most interesting for mathematicians, and why are mathematicians urgently needed for controlling the pandemic?”

In the first part of the article, they examine the historical and country-specific contexts and responses, including the public health element. In the second part, the focus is “…not ‘country-oriented’ but ‘problem-oriented’. From a given problem [they] go ‘top-down’ to its solutions and their applications in concrete situations.” They organised this by the mathematical methods that play a role in their solution, and examine the particular need for mathematics in the development of a vaccine and the strategy for applying it “without losing sight of basic ethical principles.”

You can read the article on pages 29–37 of the EMS Newsletter, issue 117.