Updated projections of COVID-19 in the EU/EEA and the UK

Technical report
Cite:

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Updated projections of COVID-19 in the EU/EEA and the UK. 23 November 2020. ECDC: Stockholm; 2020.

In May 2020, ECDC produced a set of short-term forecasts of the expected number of COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalised cases (subdivided into general hospital wards and intensive care units). Updated forecasts were published in September 2020. In this report we present slightly longer-term projections for each country, up until 25 December 2020.

Executive summary

Following widespread transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in the European Union (EU)/European Economic Area (EEA) countries and the United Kingdom (UK) over several weeks, the COVID-19 epidemic reached a peak in most of these countries in April or early May 2020. Following the implementation of non-pharmaceutical measures aimed at reducing contact rates between people, the number of confirmed cases and associated morbidity and mortality diminished sharply. In most countries, the intensity of these measures was subsequently lightened. By late October 2020, a resurgence of cases was observed in EU/EEA countries and the UK. As this was accompanied by increased hospital and ICU admissions and deaths the increase is considered to be a consequence of increased transmission, not solely increased testing rates. As a result, many countries have taken steps to re-introduce more stringent control measures to once again reduce the contact rate between people.

Mathematical modelling of SARS-CoV-2 transmission and associated COVID-19 disease is used to assess the potential progression of the epidemic within a population and to inform decision-making on potential interventions to ensure public health. The methodology inherently facilitates the quantification of uncertainty associated with these estimations and projections. In May 2020, ECDC produced a set of short-term forecasts of the expected number of COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalised cases (subdivided into general hospital wards and intensive care units). Updated forecasts were published in September 2020.

In this report we present slightly longer-term projections for each country, up until 25 December 2020. We continue to model a baseline ‘status quo’ scenario, assuming all control measures in place in early November 2020 will be continued until the end of the projection period. However, we also include an alternative scenario which illustrates the potential impact on the number of cases, hospitalisations and deaths if the population returned to the behaviour they practised on 1 April 2020. We also illustrate the potential impact on hospitalisation rates if recently-implemented response measures are lifted before Christmas. The model is based on the epidemiological data and scientific evidence available at the time of publication. Further developments are anticipated as new information and
epidemiological data become available.

The model was developed at ECDC and applied at a national level for EU/EEA countries and the UK. Mathematical models provide a helpful approach for quantifying uncertainty but their output should be interpreted and appraised in light of both the underlying assumptions and the completeness and potential bias of the data used to parameterise and calibrate them.

An assessment of the potential trajectory of disease and mortality caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the most appropriate response strategies, should be based on a comprehensive analysis of the specific epidemiological situation in each country, using modelling projections in context.

Previous reports on projections of COVID-19

Publication

Baseline projections of COVID-19 in the EU/EEA and the UK: update

Technical report -

This report provides updated 30-day projections, together with the inherent model assumptions and uncertainties. Both the model projections and the data to which the model is calibrated should be interpreted with caution given the differences between national surveillance systems, case definitions and testing policies. Comparisons between countries based on the data and forecasts presented in this paper should only be made with extreme caution and should take these differences into account. Nonetheless, the projections presented here illustrate potential future trends in COVID-19 transmission in EU/EEA countries and the UK.