Pandemic Diaries: Predictions

Kuwait’s COVID-19 crisis will end June 5, according to statistical modeling data published by the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), Data-Driven Innovation Lab

The SUTD published the predicted date for Kuwait among a series of charts predicting when COVID-19 will end for countries around the world. (https://ddi.sutd.edu.sg/portfolio/items/444814)

If it’s correct, we can all celebrate, as June is only a month away and by the end of Ramadan, we will have a clear sense of what the summer holds. But is it correct? The charts utilize what is called a “SIR (susceptible-infected-recovered) model, regressed based on the data from different countries to estimate the pandemic life cycle curve and predict when the pandemic might end in different countries and in the world.”

The SIR model uses dependent variables – number of susceptible individuals, number of infected individuals and number of recovered individuals – and then fractions of the three within the population as dependent variables. It then makes assumptions about each of these groups.

In the case of susceptible individuals, the SIR model assumes that no one is added to this group since most countries have halted immigration and closed borders. In Kuwait’s case however, this assumption will not work out since the government is airlifting home around 50,000+ citizens (several thousands have already arrived) and it’s possible that some asymptomatic individuals will be among them.

This is just one aspect of the model that might not apply to Kuwait. There are many different models now designed to try to predict the future trajectory of the crisis and each has its own limitations and challenges and different projections for when we might see the end of the crisis. To learn more about this one, you can read how the model is devised here: https://www.maa.org/press/periodicals/loci/joma/the-sir-model-for-spread-of-disease-the-differential-equation-model.

In looking at the model for Kuwait itself, we see that the peak may have already been reached, although the predicted number of cases according to the model is much less than the actual number of cases reported at the ‘predicted peak’. Another inconsistency.

That said, the model may have some applicability and still offers a glimpse of the future. If it does hold true, then we should have reached or almost reached the peak and start to see a slow decline in new cases. Only time will tell. The government here expects the crisis to last much longer, though we may begin to see some limited reopening of shops after Ramadan.

We can only hope that we have reached the peak and start to move past this pandemic.

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