Trade-offs between mobility restrictions and transmission of SARS-CoV-2

Martijn Gösgens*, Teun Hendriks, Marko Boon, Wim Steenbakkers, Hans Heesterbeek, Remco van der Hofstad, Nelly Litvak

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
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In their response to the COVID-19 outbreak, governments face the dilemma to balance public health and economy. Mobility plays a central role in this dilemma because the movement of people enables both economic activity and virus spread. We use mobility data in the form of counts of travellers between regions, to extend the often-used SEIR models to include mobility between regions. We quantify the trade-off between mobility and infection spread in terms of a single parameter, to be chosen by policy makers, and propose strategies for restricting mobility so that the restrictions are minimal while the infection spread is effectively limited. We consider restrictions where the country is divided into regions, and study scenarios where mobility is allowed within these regions, and disallowed between them. We propose heuristic methods to approximate optimal choices for these regions. We evaluate the obtained restrictions based on our trade-off. The results show that our methods are especially effective when the infections are highly concentrated, e.g. around a few municipalities, as resulting from superspreading events that play an important role in the spread of COVID-19. We demonstrate our method in the example of the Netherlands. The results apply more broadly when mobility data are available.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20200936
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the Royal Society. Interface
Issue number175
Publication statusPublished - 24 Feb 2021


  • Epidemiology
  • Compartmental models
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Mobility restrictions
  • Simulation study


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