Distance from the outbreak of infection, ozone pollution and public health consequences of SARS-CoV-2 epidemic: the HOPE method



Italy was the second country in the world, after China, to be hit by SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Italy’s experience teaches that steps to limit people’s movement by imposing ‘red zones’ need to be put in place early by carefully identifying the cities to be included within these areas of quarantine. The assessment of the relationship between the distance from an established outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 infection with transmission-linked cases and mortality observed in other sites could provide useful information to identify the optimal radius of red zones.


We investigated the relationship between SARS-CoV-2 cases and the distance of each Italian province from the first outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 epidemic in Italy (the city of Lodi placed in the Lombardia region). In 38 provinces of Lombardia and neighboring regions, we performed a breakpoint analysis to identify the radius of the red zone around Lodi minimizing epidemic spread and mortality in neighboring cities.


In all Italian provinces, a non-linear relationship was found between SARS-CoV-2 cases and distance from Lodi. In an analysis including the provinces of Lombardia and neighboring regions, SARS-CoV-2 cases and mortality increased when the distance from Lodi reduced below 92 and 140 km, respectively, and such relationships were amplified by ozone (O3) pollution.


The breakpoint analysis identifies the radius around the outbreak of Lodi minimizing the public health consequences of SARS-CoV-2 in neighboring cities. Such an approach can be useful to identify the red zones in future epidemics due to highly infective pathogens similar to SARS-CoV-2.