Modelling and predicting the effect of social distancing and travel restrictions on COVID-19 spreading

Francesco Parino, Lorenzo Zino, Maurizio Porfiri, Alessandro Rizzo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To date, the only effective means to respond to the spreading of the COVID-19 pandemic are non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs), which entail policies to reduce social activity and mobility restrictions. Quantifying their effect is difficult, but it is key to reducing their social and economic consequences. Here, we introduce a meta-population model based on temporal networks, calibrated on the COVID-19 outbreak data in Italy and applied to evaluate the outcomes of these two types of NPIs. Our approach combines the advantages of granular spatial modelling of meta-population models with the ability to realistically describe social contacts via activity-driven networks. We focus on disentangling the impact of these two different types of NPIs: Those aiming at reducing individuals' social activity, for instance through lockdowns, and those that enforce mobility restrictions. We provide a valuable framework to assess the effectiveness of different NPIs, varying with respect to their timing and severity. Results suggest that the effects of mobility restrictions largely depend on the possibility of implementing timely NPIs in the early phases of the outbreak, whereas activity reduction policies should be prioritized afterwards.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20200875
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Issue number175
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • calibration
  • epidemic model
  • meta-population
  • mobility
  • networks
  • non-pharmaceutical interventions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biophysics
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering


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