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Measuring the Transmission Rate of COVID-19: What Can We Learn From Cross Country Comparisons?

Working Paper 768 | Published May 29, 2020

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Measuring the Transmission Rate of COVID-19: What Can We Learn From Cross Country Comparisons?

Abstract

We modify a standard SIR epidemiological model to allow for testing and asymptomatic agents. We explore cross country variation's ability to allow for identification of key parameters of the model: the fatality rate and the evolution over time of the normalized transmission rate. We first show that as long as tests are applied only to agents who exhibit symptoms, those parameters cannot be identified. We briefly discuss which additional information may allow for identification. Finally, we also describe conditions under which the normalized transmission rate can be computed with very high accuracy, and how cross country evidence can be used to evaluate the effect of lockdowns on evolution of the effective transmission rate over time.