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Risk assessment of the step-by-step return-to-work policy in Beijing following the COVID-19 epidemic peak

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/02/2021
<mark>Journal</mark>Stochastic Environmental Research and Risk Assessment
Number of pages18
Pages (from-to)481-498
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date13/11/20
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is a new strain of coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, China. As the virus spread worldwide causing a global pandemic, China reduced transmission at considerable social and economic cost. Post-lockdown, resuming work safely, that is, while avoiding a second epidemic outbreak, is a major challenge. Exacerbating this challenge, Beijing hosts many residents and workers with origins elsewhere, making it a relatively high-risk region in which to resume work. Nevertheless, the step-by-step approach taken by Beijing appears to have been effective so far. To learn from the epidemic progression and return-to-work measures undertaken in Beijing, and to inform efforts to avoid a second outbreak of COVID-19, we simulated the epidemiological progression of COVID-19 in Beijing under the real scenario of multiple stages of resuming work. A new epidemic transmission model was developed from a modified SEIR model for SARS, tailored to the situation of Beijing and fitted using multi-source data. Because of strong spatial heterogeneity amongst the population, socio-economic factors and medical capacity of Beijing, the risk assessment was undertaken spatiotemporally with respect to each district of Beijing. The epidemic simulation confirmed that the policy of resuming work step-by step, as implemented in Beijing, was sufficient to avoid a recurrence of the epidemic. Moreover, because of the structure of the model, the simulation provided insights into the specific factors at play at different stages of resuming work, allowing district-specific recommendations to be made with respect to monitoring at different stages of resuming work. As such, this research provides important lessons for other cities and regions dealing with outbreaks of COVID-19 and implementing return-to-work policies.

Bibliographic note

The final publication is available at Springer via http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00477-020-01929-3