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Supporting COVID-19 policy-making with a predictive epidemiological multi-model warning system


In response to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, the Austrian governmental crisis unit commissioned a forecast consortium with regularly projections of case numbers and demand for hospital beds. The goal was to assess how likely Austrian ICUs would become overburdened with COVID-19 patients in the upcoming weeks.


We consolidated the output of three epidemiological models (ranging from agent-based micro simulation to parsimonious compartmental models) and published weekly short-term forecasts for the number of confirmed cases as well as estimates and upper bounds for the required hospital beds.


We report on three key contributions by which our forecasting and reporting system has helped shaping Austria’s policy to navigate the crisis, namely (i) when and where case numbers and bed occupancy are expected to peak during multiple waves, (ii) whether to ease or strengthen non-pharmaceutical intervention in response to changing incidences, and (iii) how to provide hospital managers guidance to plan health-care capacities.


Complex mathematical epidemiological models play an important role in guiding governmental responses during pandemic crises, in particular when they are used as a monitoring system to detect epidemiological change points.

Plain language summary

During the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, health authorities make decisions on how and when to implement interventions such as social distancing to avoid overburdening hospitals and other parts of the healthcare system. We combined three mathematical models developed to predict the expected number of confirmed SARS-CoV-2 cases and hospitalizations over the next two weeks. This provides decision-makers and the general public with a combined forecast that is usually more accurate than any of the individual models. Our forecasting system has been used in Austria to decide when to strengthen or ease response measures.

M. Bicher, M. Zuba, L. Rainer, F. Bachner, C. Rippinger, H. Ostermann, N. Popper, S. Thurner, P. Klimek, Supporting COVID-19 policy-making with a predictive epidemiological multi-model warning system, Communications Medicine 2 (2022) 157.

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