Munich Personal RePEc Archive

The reproduction number and its measurement. A critique of the Robert Koch Institute

Quaas, Georg (2020): The reproduction number and its measurement. A critique of the Robert Koch Institute.

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The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) has the goal of „protecting the population from disease and improving their state of health“ (RKI 2017). To this end, it develops research-based concrete recommendations for policy and makes data available to the expert public. Since the April 3, 2020, it has been publishing daily the numbers of corona infections reported by the health authorities, since the April 9, 2020, also the number of deaths from this infection and since April 25, 2020, the estimated number of convalescents. The so-called reproduction number reported since April 7, 2020, have largely superseded all other criteria by which the public health policy is guided. This article shows that the calculation of this figure by the RKI is neither theory-based nor particularly reliable. Nevertheless, there is a simple way to determine this number in the framework of the classic epidemic model (CEM). This study makes explicit important parts of the theoretical background of the CEM with the goal to underline that the method of determining the reproduction number empirically is a theoretically defined matter and cannot be replaced by a phenomenological method.

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