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Mathematical modelling crucial in reducing spread of Covid-19

5 August 2021

Covid model flowchart

Experts from the School of Mathematics have created an online app to predict the threat of Covid-19 in educational settings to help inform government policy regarding the future of pupils returning to schools.

The ‘user-friendly’ calculator allows decision makers to input information specific to a relevant scenario - such as classroom sizes and smaller ‘bubble’ groups – and a complex mathematical algorithm will predict the development of infection in numerous situations.

The results of this work has already helped to influence Welsh Government policy in relation to the development of FE and HE workplace and residential policy. The model has been used to assess the impact of testing and interventions for students returning to colleges or Halls of Residence from their permanent home addresses.

Dr Thomas Woolley, Senior Lecturer and research student Joshua Moore, have been working on the project together and recently secured Just One Giant Lab (JOGL) funding to turn their mathematical modelling into the usable app which will be accessible to policy makers.

“Our contribution is to generate an individual-based model of infection spread that splits the susceptible population into local and nonlocal groups,” explained Dr Woolley. “The algorithm can be used to predict the development of an infection in many situations, where individuals naturally form groups, or cliques. We focus on modelling the educational setting, namely, we seek to predict how testing, isolation and other interventions influence the spread of infection in secondary schools, Further Education (FE) settings (e.g. colleges) and Higher Education (HE) settings, (e.g. Halls of Residence in a university).

“Whilst the mathematical aspects of the simulator were robust and reliable, we wanted to speed up the process and make it more accessible to users, so Joshua created the user-friendly calculator that anyone can use and simulate whatever scenario they’re interested in.”

Their work on modelling the spread of Covid-19 has also been considered by the Welsh Government’s Technical Advisory Group (TAG), Further Education and Higher Education Task Group, and presented to the Environmental Science policy committee, for use in advising how to open up more general social spaces, such as places of worship.

You can see the current app here where you will also find video tutorials created by the team to help users navigate the calculator.

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