Mangal, T., Whittaker, C., Nkhoma, D., Ng’ambi, W., Watson, O. J., Walker, P., Ghani, A. C., Revill, P., Colbourn, T., Phillips, A. N., Hallett, T. B., & Mfutso-Bengo, J. (2020). The potential impact of intervention strategies on COVID-19 transmission in Malawi: A mathematical modelling study. medRxiv (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory). https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.10.06.20207878
COVID-19 mitigation strategies have been challenging to implement in resource-limited settings such as Malawi due to the potential for widespread disruption to social and economic well-being. Here we estimate the clinical severity of COVID-19 in Malawi, quantifying the potential impact of intervention strategies and increases in health system capacity.
The infection fatality ratios (IFR) in Malawi were estimated by adjusting reported IFR for China accounting for demography, the current prevalence of comorbidities and health system capacity. These estimates were input into an age-structured deterministic model, which simulated the epidemic trajectory with non-pharmaceutical interventions. The impact of a novel therapeutic agent and increases in hospital capacity and oxygen availability were explored, given different assumptions on mortality rates.
The estimated age-specific IFR in Malawi are higher than those reported for China, however the younger average age of the population results in a slightly lower population-weighted IFR (0.48%, 95% uncertainty interval [UI] 0.30% – 0.72% compared with 0.60%, 95% CI 0.4% – 1.3% in China). The current interventions implemented, (i.e. social distancing, workplace closures and public transport restrictions) could potentially avert 3,100 deaths (95% UI 1,500 – 4,500) over the course of the epidemic. Enhanced shielding of people aged ≥ 60 years could avert a further 30,500 deaths (95% UI 17,500 – 45,600) and halve ICU admissions at the peak of the outbreak. Coverage of face coverings of 60% under the assumption of 50% efficacy could be sufficient to control the epidemic. A novel therapeutic agent, which reduces mortality by 0.65 and 0.8 for severe and critical cases respectively, in combination with increasing hospital capacity could reduce projected mortality to 2.55 deaths per 1,000 population (95% UI 1.58 – 3.84).
The risks due to COVID-19 vary across settings and are influenced by age, underlying health and health system capacity.