We study the effectiveness of tracking and testing policies for suppressing epidemic outbreaks. We evaluate the performance of tracking-based intervention methods on a network SEIR model, which we augment with an additional parameter to model pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals, and study the effectiveness of these methods in combination with or as an alternative to quarantine and global lockdown policies. Our focus is on the basic trade-off between human-lives lost and economic costs, and on how this trade-off changes under different quarantine, lockdown, tracking, and testing policies. Our main findings are as follows: (1) Tests combined with patient quarantines reduce both economic costs and mortality, however, an extensive-scale testing capacity is required to achieve a significant improvement. (2) Tracking significantly reduces both economic costs and mortality. (3) Tracking combined with a moderate testing capacity can achieve containment without lockdowns. (4) In the presence of a flow of new incoming infections, dynamic “On–Off” lockdowns are more efficient than fixed lockdowns. In this setting as well, tracking strictly improves efficiency. The results show the extreme usefulness of policies that combine tracking and testing for reducing mortality and economic costs, and their potential to contain outbreaks without imposing any social distancing restrictions. This highlights the difficult social question of trading-off these gains against patient privacy, which is inevitably infringed by tracking.
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© 2021, The Author(s).