Agent-based tracking of disease spread with dynamic models of travel behaviour in a pandemic

Epidemic models are essential tools to coordinate all aspects of the response to pandemics. Models can inform policy makers on strategies for vaccinations and testing, but also to trigger mitigation measure such as the ‘lockdowns’ used during the COVID-19 outbreak in Switzerland. Here, we propose to use and further develop a well-established technology (agent-based models of daily travel behaviour) to simulate epidemics with considerably increased temporal and spatial resolution. The technology enables tracking chains of infections between individual agents (people), as well as the health status of all agents over multiple days. The strength of the approach lies in the diversity of behaviours that can be attributed to agents, which in turn enables to simulate a wide range of targeted policies: timing, duration, and spatial extent of a containment policy, but also restrictions specific to age, professions, etc.

This project is a collaboration between ETH Zurich, the University of Applied Sciences in Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW) and Swiss TPH, with partners from the Technische Universität Berlin and the University of Geneva.

Public Health


Melissa Penny

Professor Melissa Penny, PhD, PD
Head of Unit


Project Facts

Collaborating Institutions