J Korean Med Sci.  2020 Sep;35(35):e321. 10.3346/jkms.2020.35.e321.

Estimating the Effectiveness of Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions on COVID-19 Control in Korea

  • 1Institute of Health and Environment, Graduate School of Public Health, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea
  • 2Department of Public Health Science, Graduate School of Public Health, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea


The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has posed significant global public health challenges and created a substantial economic burden. Korea has experienced an extensive outbreak, which was linked to a religion-related super-spreading event. However, the implementation of various non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs), including social distancing, spring semester postponing, and extensive testing and contact tracing controlled the epidemic. Herein, we estimated the effectiveness of each NPI using a simulation model.
A compartment model with a susceptible-exposed-infectious-quarantinedhospitalized structure was employed. Using the Monte-Carlo-Markov-Chain algorithm with Gibbs' sampling method, we estimated the time-varying effective contact rate to calibrate the model with the reported daily new confirmed cases from February 12th to March 31st (7 weeks). Moreover, we conducted scenario analyses by adjusting the parameters to estimate the effectiveness of NPI.
Relaxed social distancing among adults would have increased the number of cases 27.4-fold until the end of March. Spring semester non-postponement would have increased the number of cases 1.7-fold among individuals aged 0–19, while lower quarantine and detection rates would have increased the number of cases 1.4-fold.
Among the three NPI measures, social distancing in adults showed the highest effectiveness. The substantial effect of social distancing should be considered when preparing for the 2nd wave of COVID-19.


COVID-19; Mathematical Model; Non-pharmaceutical Interventions; Gibbs' Sampling
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