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Modelling ICU capacity under different epidemiological scenarios of the COVID-19 pandemic in three western European countries

  • McCabe, R
  • Kont, M
  • Schmit, N
  • Whittaker, C
  • Lochen, A
  • Baguelin, M
  • Knock, E
  • Whittles, L
  • Lees, J
  • Brazeau, N
  • Walker, P
  • Ghani, A
  • Ferguson, N
  • White, P
  • Donnelly, C
  • Hauck, K
  • Watson, O
Publication Date
Feb 10, 2021
Spiral - Imperial College Digital Repository


Background: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has placed enormous strain on intensive care units (ICUs) in Europe. Ensuring access to care, irrespective of COVID-19 status, in winter 2020/21 is essential. Methods: An integrated model of hospital capacity planning and epidemiological projections of COVID-19 patients is used to estimate the demand for and resultant spare capacity of ICU beds, staff, and ventilators under different epidemic scenarios in France, Germany, and Italy across the 2020/21 winter period. The effect of implementing lockdowns triggered by different numbers of COVID-19 patients in ICU under varying levels of effectiveness is examined, using a ‘dual-demand’ (COVID-19 and non-COVID-19) patient model. Results: Without sufficient mitigation, we estimate that COVID-19 ICU patient numbers will exceed those seen in the first peak, resulting in substantial capacity deficits, with beds being consistently found to be the most constrained resource. Reactive lockdowns could lead to large improvements in ICU capacity during the winter season, with pressure being most effectively alleviated when lockdown is triggered early and sustained under a higher level of suppression. The success of such interventions also depends on baseline bed numbers and average non-COVID-19 patient occupancy. Conclusions: Reductions in capacity deficits under different scenarios must be weighed against the feasibility and drawbacks of further lockdowns. Careful, continuous decision-making by national policymakers will be required across the winter period 2020/21.

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