PLoS ONE (Jan 2021)

Breakpoint modelling of temporal associations between non-pharmaceutical interventions and symptomatic COVID-19 incidence in the Republic of Ireland.

  • Martin Boudou,
  • Coilin ÓhAiseadha,
  • Patricia Garvey,
  • Jean O'Dwyer,
  • Paul Hynds

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 16, no. 7
p. e0255254


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BackgroundTo constrain propagation and mitigate the burden of COVID-19, most countries initiated and continue to implement several non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs), including national and regional lockdowns. In the Republic of Ireland, the first national lockdown was decreed on 23rd of March 2020, followed by a succession of restriction increases and decreases (phases) over the following year. To date, the effects of these interventions remain unclear, and particularly within differing population subsets. The current study sought to assess the impact of individual NPI phases on COVID-19 transmission patterns within delineated population subgroups in the Republic of Ireland.Methods and findingsConfirmed, anonymised COVID-19 cases occurring between the 29th of February 2020 and 30th November 2020 (n = 72,654) were obtained. Segmented modelling via breakpoint regression with multiple turning points was employed to identify structural breaks across sub-populations, including primary/secondary infections, age deciles, urban/commuter/rural areas, patients with underlying health conditions, and socio-demographic profiles. These were subsequently compared with initiation dates of eight overarching NPI phases. Five distinct breakpoints were identified. The first breakpoint, associated with a decrease in the daily COVID-19 incidence, was reported within 14 days of the first set of restrictions in mid-March 2020 for most population sub-groups. Results suggest that moderately strict NPIs were more effective than the strictest Phase 5 (National Lockdown). Divergences were observed across population sub-groups; lagged response times were observed among populations >80 years, residents of rural/ commuter regions, and cases associated with a below-median deprivation score.ConclusionsStudy findings suggest that many NPIs have been successful in decreasing COVID-19 incidence rates, however the strictest Phase 5 NPI was not. Moreover, NPIs were not equally successful across all sub-populations, with differing response times noted. Future strategies and interventions may need to be increasingly bespoke, based on sub-population profiles and required responses.