Evaluating data-driven methods for short-term forecasts of cumulative SARS-CoV2 cases

Ghufran Ahmed, Furqan Ahmed, Muhammad Suhail RIzwan, Javed Muhammad, Syeda Hira Fatima, Aamer Ikram, Hajo Zeeb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
22 Downloads (Pure)


The WHO announced the epidemic of SARS-CoV2 as a public health emergency of international concern on 30th January 2020. To date, it has spread to more than 200 countries and has been declared a global pandemic. For appropriate preparedness, containment, and mitigation response, the stakeholders and policymakers require prior guidance on the propagation of SARS-CoV2.

This study aims to provide such guidance by forecasting the cumulative COVID-19 cases up to 4 weeks ahead for 187 countries, using four data-driven methodologies; autoregressive integrated moving average (ARIMA), exponential smoothing model (ETS), and random walk forecasts (RWF) with and without drift. For these forecasts, we evaluate the accuracy and systematic errors using the Mean Absolute Percentage Error (MAPE) and Mean Absolute Error (MAE), respectively.

The results show that the ARIMA and ETS methods outperform the other two forecasting methods. Additionally, using these forecasts, we generate heat maps to provide a pictorial representation of the countries at risk of having an increase in the cases in the coming 4 weeks of February 2021.

Due to limited data availability during the ongoing pandemic, less data-hungry short-term forecasting models, like ARIMA and ETS, can help in anticipating the future outbreaks of SARS-CoV2.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0252147
Number of pages21
JournalPLoS One
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 21 May 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • data-driven methods
  • short-term forecasts
  • SARS-CoV2
  • forecasting models
  • ETS
  • outbreak


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