IEEE Access (Jan 2021)

Assessing the Effectiveness of Isolation and Contact-Tracing Interventions for Early Transmission Dynamics of COVID-19 in South Korea

  • Hohyung Ryu,
  • Arsen Abulali,
  • Sunmi Lee

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 9
pp. 41456 – 41467


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Recent COVID-19 outbreaks pose serious public health challenges all around the world. South Korea had experienced the early outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and implemented early effective interventions. The 2020 COVID-19 outbreak in South Korea showed spatial hot spots and super-spreading events. As a result of these super-spreading events, three huge outbreaks of the COVID-19 have occurred in Korea from February to December 2020. To capture the intrinsic nature of heterogeneity, an agent-based model has been developed focusing on early transmission dynamics of COVID-19 in South Korea. Based on the social empirical contact information of early confirmed cases of COVID-19, we have constructed a scale-free network. Our agent-based model has incorporated essential individual variability such as different contact numbers and infectivity levels. In the absence of vaccines or treatment, contact tracing, case-isolation, quarantine are the most critical interventions to prevent larger outbreaks. First, we investigate the impacts of critical factors on various epidemic outputs such as incidence and cumulative incidence. These critical factors include contact numbers, transmission rates, infectivity of presymptomatic or asymptomatic cases, and contact-tracing with quarantine intervention. Furthermore, the effectiveness of case isolation and contact-tracing (followed by quarantine) is evaluated under various scenarios. Our results indicate that case isolation combined with contact-tracing quarantine is much more effective under a moderate level of R0 (smaller transmission rates or contact numbers) and presymptomatic cases. However, the efficacy of interventions reduces significantly for a higher level of R0 (larger transmission rates or contact numbers) with a high level of infectivity (in presymptomatic cases). This highlights the key role of efficient contact-tracing and case-isolation to mitigate larger outbreaks or super-spreading events.