Real-time estimation of the reproduction number of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in China in 2020 based on incidence data

Kai Wang, Shi Zhao, Huling Li, Yateng Song, Lei Wang, Maggie H. Wang, Zhihang Peng, Hui Li, Daihai He

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


Background: Since the first appearance in Wuhan, China in December 2019, the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has posed serious threats to the public health in many Chinese places and overseas. It is essential to quantify the transmissibility on real-time basis for designing public health responses.
Methods: We estimated the time-varying reproduction numbers in China, Hubei province and Wuhan city by using the renewable equation determined by the serial interval (SI) of COVID-19. We compare the average reproduction numbers in different periods of time to explore the effectiveness of the public health
control measures against the COVID-19 epidemic.
Results: We estimated the reproduction numbers at 2.61 (95% CI: 2.47–2.75), 2.76 (95% CI: 2.54–2.95) and 2.71 (95% CI: 2.43–3.01) for China, Hubei province and Wuhan respectively. We found that the reproduction number largely dropped after the city lockdown. As of February 16, the three reproduction numbers further reduced to 0.98, 1.14 and 1.41 respectively.
Conclusions: The control of COVID-19 epidemic was effective in substantially reducing the disease transmissibility in terms of the reproduction number in China reduced to 0.98 as of February 16. At the same time, the reproduction number in Wuhan was probably still larger than 1, and thus the enhancement in the public health control was recommended to maintain.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of Translational Medicine
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


  • COVID-19
  • outbreak
  • modelling
  • reproduction number
  • serial interval


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