I wasn't too sure of where to post this since it's a mix of physics (dynamical systems), medicine, and mathematics but here it goes.

I am trying to model the current outbreak of Covid 19 using a more sophisticated model than the simple SIR model, and so I added two categories: Isolated Sick people to represent sick people who self isolate after presenting symptoms, and Isolated Healthy people to represent people who isolate once isolation is ordered.

I set the following set of differential equations and I could appreciate criticism or ways of improving the model, or just confirmation that it should be able to model a pandemic like the one today. I name $S(t)$ the susceptible people, $I(t)$ the infected people (not in quarantine), $Q_s(t)$ people who are sick in quarantine, $Q_h(t)$ people who are healthy in quarantine, and $R(t)$ recovered people. $$ \frac{dS}{dt}=-\beta \frac{S}{N}I-\alpha(t)\frac{S}{N}S+\alpha'(t)\frac{S}{N}Q_h-\beta c\frac{Q_s}{N}S $$ $$ \frac{dI}{dt}=\beta \frac{S}{N}I+\beta c\frac{S}{N}Q_s+\beta c\frac{I}{N}Q_h-\lambda I-\gamma I -\alpha(t)\frac{S}{N}I $$ $$ \frac{dQ_s}{dt}=\lambda I-\gamma Q_s+\alpha(t)\frac{S}{N}I $$ $$ \frac{dQ_h}{dt}=\alpha(t)\frac{S}{N}S-\alpha'(t)\frac{S}{N}Q_h-\beta c\frac{I}{N}Q_h $$ $$ \frac{dR}{dt}=\gamma Q_s+\gamma I $$ $$ N = S(t)+I(t)+Q_s(t)+Q_h(t)+R(t) = constant $$ The equations use the following parameters. $\beta$ is the transmission rate of the disease. $\alpha(t)$ is a time-dependent parameter that indicates the rate at which people go into quarantine once a compulsory quarantine is in effect. You can think of it being a pulse shaped function of a given duration (quarantine duration) and a given amplitude. $\alpha'(t)$ follows the same idea but instead describes how people get out of the quarantine once it's over. $c$ is a percentage multiplier that describes how reduced the infection rate for quarantine people is. In an ideal quarantine, it would be $0$. $\lambda$ is the rate at which people self isolate once they get infected. $\gamma$ is the rate of recovery from the disease. Finally, $N$ should be the total population and it should be a constant since all the time derivatives should add up to $0$ (unless I mistyped).

I am currently solving it using Python and Scipy, and the main question I have apart from how relevant the coefficients like $\frac{S}{N}$ or $\frac{I}{N}$ are is how come isolation doesn't seem to affect much the amplitude of the peak of infections. Instead what happens is that it only pushes it back. Furthermore, sometimes it seems like isolation at the right moment (once the peak starts to form) can help a lot more than isolation too early there's barely any cases. Indeed, early isolation just pushes it back, but isolation at the right time seems to reduce the future peek since a lot of individuals are by that time already immune and the susceptible population is a lot smaller than just pure isolation when the susceptible population just bounces back to pre isolation levels and since the disease is just as infectious and it hasn't been eliminated, the peak happens just later in the future.

Is this effect normal? Is this effect truly what happens in a real pandemic? And if so isn't the current isolation a bit counterproductive in the sense that we don't allow any herd immunity to happen?

Thank you!


I have updated the equations following a comment and removed a squared dependence on S. So now: $$ \frac{dS}{dt}=-\beta \frac{S}{N}I-\alpha(t)S+\alpha'(t)\frac{S}{N}Q_h-\beta c\frac{Q_s}{N}S $$ $$ \frac{dQ_h}{dt}=\alpha(t)S-\alpha'(t)\frac{S}{N}Q_h-\beta c\frac{I}{N}Q_h $$

Also, I have been running some simulations (You can find the code on my Github) that I'd like to discuss.

Simulation with N = 40 million and quarantine of 30 days, and c=0.5

Same population, just no forced quarantine

Both correspond to a run with N=40 million people (the size of California), with $\beta=\frac{1}{24*4.375} \text{h}^{-1}$ (the $\beta$ was obtained doing a fit to the cumulative cases in California, and getting the time constant in days). $\lambda=\frac{1}{24*5}=\alpha_0$ (so people take around five days to fully comply with a quarantine. $c=0.5$.

The initial conditions are $I_0=1190$ cases $R_0=20$, $Q_{h_0}=10$.

The first picture shows a quarantine that is pronounced at $t=20$ days, with a duration of 60 days, with 30 days at full swing, and 15 for rise at full level, and another 15 to come back to pre isolation levels.

The first picture has a peak at 199 days, with a total number of infected at 24.1 million people. The second one gives a peak at day 86 with 24.2 million people infected.

So as you can see the peak is moved back significantly but the amplitude of said peak stays about the same.

Now what's interesting is if I launch the isolation when a little outbreak is happening. I will delay the full quarantine by 50 days. And leave the rest the same.Quarantine delayed by 50 days

Now the peak on the right is "only" at 15.5 million and it was still pushed back to day 243. It seems more manageable. Since probably around 30% of those cases might require hospitalization.

Finally, I wonder if repeating a quarantine while the second outbreak happens will work like the first one further helping to reduce the total number of infected. I could model that by changing $\alpha(t)$ and $\alpha'(t)$.

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    $\begingroup$ What's the significance of the motion of people from $S$ category to $Q_h$ category being proportional to $S^2$ rather than $S$? Same deal for the other way around being proportional to $SQ_h$ rather than $Q_h$. In any case, the actual point is related to another process not being taken into account here: the movement of people from $I$ and $Q_s$ category into dead or seriously debilitated category. Within this simple framework, that goes up dramatically as $I+Q_s$ rises past the level that the healthcare system can handle. $\endgroup$ – Ian Mar 23 at 2:13
  • $\begingroup$ The reasoning was that the rate should have a multiplier of $S/N$ so to model how people would take the quarantine more seriously the more susceptible people there is. So people would move more quickly from $S$ to $Q_h$ if a bigger proportion of the population is susceptible. But again it's debatable and part of the reason for the question. $\endgroup$ – E. Morell Mar 23 at 2:18
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, that would be an important category (dead and debilitated people) yet I didn't create it since I thought to have the number of infections and reducing it was a proxy to reducing the number of people dead or debilitated and requiring hospitalization. Yet the isolation in this SIIR model doesn't seem to help much in the actual reduction of infected people. (only Qs really helps but that's independent of the curfew style of isolation modeled by $\alpha(t)$) $\endgroup$ – E. Morell Mar 23 at 2:21
  • $\begingroup$ The problem is that $y'=-y^2$ has really slow asymptotic decay, only going as $1/t$. So in your case, unless $\alpha$ is huge, $S$ stays considerable basically forever. $\endgroup$ – Ian Mar 23 at 2:22
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    $\begingroup$ If you include a "dead" category and make the death and recovery rates change sharply as $I+Q_s$ passes some threshold (for example $10^{-3}N$), you should see the effects of "flattening the curve" on the death toll. You won't see much impact on the total number of infected over the whole outbreak, and that's to be expected. We're already past the point of doing much to fix that. $\endgroup$ – Ian Mar 23 at 2:30

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