We generalise a stochastic version of the workhorse SIR (Susceptible-Infectious- Removed) epidemiological model to account for spatial dynamics generated by network interactions. Using the London metropolitan area as a salient case study, we show that commuter network externalities account for about 42% of the propagation of COVID-19. We find that the UK lockdown measure reduced total propagation by 57%, with more than one third of the effect coming from the reduction in network externalities. Counterfactual analyses suggest that: i) the lockdown was somehow late, but further delay would have had more extreme consequences; ii) a targeted lockdown of a small number of highly connected geographic regions would have been equally effective, arguably with significantly lower economic costs; iii) targeted lockdowns based on threshold number of cases are not effective, since they fail to account for network externalities.
Systemic Risk Centre Discussion Papers DP 104
Financial Markets Group Discussion Papers DP 817