School of Economics

The role of testing and age-composition in the Covid-19 epidemic

Philipp Kircher has co-authored a new study investigating the role of testing and age-composition in the Covid-19 epidemic which indicates strong stay-at-home policies must remain in place sufficiently close to when a vaccine is found to avoid a rebound in the disease.

Written in collaboration with the Universities of BarcelonaMannheim and the Banco de Portugal , the paper seeks to account for three striking features of the COVID-19 pandemic in a calibrated economic model. First, countries that have dealt more successfully with the crisis seem to undertake massive testing programs. Second, Covid deaths are more concentrated among older individuals, who have much lower chance of surviving Covid-related hospitalisation. Third, even when faced with the same laws requiring social distancing, young individuals seem to distance themselves less.

The model reveals some preliminary information on the link between age heterogeneity, incomplete information/testing of the disease status, and the behavioural adjustments that individuals make to protect themselves during the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. This allows for the study of different policy interventions, such as stay-at-home, testing and quarantines for infected people, both in general and targeted to specific age groups.

The study has found “Strong shelter-at-home policies for everyone have to stay in place sufficiently close to the time a cure/vaccine is in place, as otherwise the disease rebounds too quickly and the policies have negligible impact on deaths. Testing and quarantine are excellent ways of reducing the disease if feasible, even if just concentrated on the young.”

Read the full paper here.