Social distancing in pedestrian dynamics and its effect on disease spreading


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Nonpharmaceutical measures such as social distancing can play an important role in controlling the spread of an epidemic. In this paper, we use a mathematical model combining human mobility and disease spreading. For the mobility dynamics, we design an agent-based model consisting of pedestrian dynamics with a novel type of force to resemble social distancing in crowded sites. For the spreading dynamics, we consider the compartmental susceptible-exposed-infective (SEI) dynamics plus an indirect transmission with the footprints of the infectious pedestrians being the contagion factor.

We show that the increase in the intensity of social distancing has a significant effect on the exposure risk. By classifying the population into social distancing abiders and nonabiders, we conclude that the practice of social distancing, even by a minority of potentially infectious agents, results in a drastic change in the population exposure risk, but it reduces the effectiveness of the protocols when practiced by the rest of the population. Furthermore, we observe that for contagions for which the indirect transmission is more significant, the effectiveness of social distancing would be reduced. This study can help to provide a quantitative guideline for policy-making on exposure risk reduction.

S. Sajjadi, A. Hashemi, F. Ghanbarnejad, Social distancing in pedestrian dynamics and its effect on disease spreading, Physical Review E 104 (2021) 014313