"Structural Identifiability and Observability of Compartmental Models of the COVID-19 Pandemic"
The recent coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak has dramatically increased the public awareness and appreciation of the utility of dynamic models. At the same time, the dissemination of contradictory model predictions has highlighted their limitations. If some parameters and/or state variables of a model cannot be determined from out-put measurements, its ability to yield correct insights – as well as the possibility of controlling the system – maybe compromised. Epidemic dynamics are commonly analysed using compartmental models, and many variations of such models have been used for analysing and predicting the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this paper we survey the different models proposed in the literature, assembling a list of 36 model structures and assessing their ability to provide reliable information. We address the problem using the control theoretic concepts of structural identifiability and observability. Since some parameters can vary during the course of an epidemic, we consider boththe constant and time-varying parameter assumptions. We analyse the structural identifiability and observability ofall of the models, considering all plausible choices of outputs and time-varying parameters, which leads us to analyse 255 different model versions. We classify the models according to their structural identifiability and observability under the different assumptions and discuss the implications of the results. We also illustrate with an example several alternative ways of remedying the lack of observability of a model. Our analyses provide guidelines for choosing themost informative model for each purpose, taking into account the available knowledge and measurements.