Impact of Non-pharmaceutical Interventions on the Control of COVID-19 in Iran: A Mathematical Modeling Study

Document Type : Original Article


1 Modeling in Health Research Center, Institute for Futures Studies in Health, Kerman University of Medical Sciences, Kerman, Iran

2 Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, School of Public Health, Kerman University of Medical Sciences, Kerman, Iran

3 Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Research Centre for Emerging and Reemerging Infectious Diseases, Pasteur Institute of Iran, Tehran, Iran

4 HIV/STI Surveillance Research Center, and WHO Collaborating Center for HIV Surveillance, Institute for Futures Studies in Health, Kerman University of Medical Sciences, Kerman, Iran

5 Big Data Institute, Li Ka Shing Centre for Health Information and Discovery, Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK


During the first months of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, Iran reported high numbers of infections and deaths. In the following months, the burden of this infection decreased significantly, possibly due to the impact of a package of interventions. We modeled the dynamics of COVID-19 infection in Iran to quantify the impacts of these interventions.

We used a modified susceptible–exposed–infected–recovered (SEIR) model to model the COVID-19 epidemic in Iran, from January 21, 2020 to September 21, 2020. We estimated the 95% uncertainty intervals (UIs) using Markov chain Monte Carlo simulation. Under different scenarios, we assessed the effectiveness of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) including physical distancing measures and self-isolation. We also estimated the time-varying reproduction number (Rt), using our mathematical model and epidemiologic data.

If no NPIs were applied, there could have been a cumulative number of 51 800 000 (95% UI: 1 910 000–77 600 000) COVID-19 infections and 266 000 (95% UI: 119 000–476 000) deaths by September 21, 2020. If physical distancing interventions, such as school/border closures and self-isolation interventions had been introduced a week earlier than they were actually launched, 30.8% and 35.2% reduction in the number of deaths and infections respectively could have been achieved by September 21, 2020. The observed daily number of deaths showed that the Rt was one or more than one almost every day during the analysis period.

Our models suggest that the NPIs implemented in Iran between January 21, 2020 and September 21, 2020 had significant effects on the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic. Our study also showed that the timely implementation of NPIs showed a profound effect on further reductions in the numbers of infections and deaths. This highlights the importance of forecasting and early detection of future waves of infection and of the need for effective preparedness and response capabilities.


Main Subjects

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Articles in Press, Accepted Manuscript
Available Online from 09 June 2021