COVID-19, mitigation policies and social inequalities. A new data-driven paper out in Nature Communications

What is the effect of social inequalities on the mitigation of COVID-19? How did the impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) correlate with the human economic and development conditions of different communities in a big metropolitan area like Santiago de Chile? And how can anonymized mobile phone data help us in getting a data-driven characterization of the unfolding of the epidemic?

In “Estimating the effect of social inequalities on the mitigation of COVID-19 across communities in Santiago de Chile” , a new paper out in Nature Communications, an international team of scientists from ISI Foundation, Northeastern University, University of Greenwich, and Universidad del Desarrollo, with the collaboration of Telefónica Movistar, addresses all of these questions, by analyzing the effect of partial and full lockdown in Santiago in 2020.

Researchers studied the spatio-temporal spread of SARS-CoV-2 in the Chilean capital using anonymized mobile phone data from 1.4 million users and characterizing the effects of NPIs on the epidemic dynamics. By integrating these data into a mechanistic epidemic model calibrated on surveillance data, scientists show how the full lockdown (introducted on May 15th, after a partial one in mid-March) was decisive in bringing the epidemic under control.

At the same time, they find that the impact of NPIs on individuals’ mobility correlates with the Human Development Index of the 37 “comunas” in the city: more developed and wealthier areas became more isolated after government interventions and experienced a significantly lower burden of the pandemic. This heterogeneity raises important issues, scientists say, in the implementation of NPIs and highlights the challenges that communities affected by systemic health and social inequalities face adapting their behaviors during an epidemic.

Estimating the effect of social inequalities in the mitigation of COVID-19 across communities in Santiago de Chile”, Nicolò Gozzi, Michele Tizzoni, Matteo Chinazzi, Leo Ferres, Alessandro Vespignani, Nicola Perra, Nature Communications, 23rd April 2021