Real-time tracking of a pandemic, as data accumulate over time, is an essential component of a public health response to a new outbreak. A team of statistical modellers at the Medical Research Council Biostatistics Unit regularly nowcast and forecast COVID-19 infections and deaths. This information feeds directly to SAGE sub-group, Scientific Pandemic Influenza sub-group on Modelling (SPI-M) and to regional PHE teams.
The work uses a statistical programming model called a transmission model (Birrell et al. 2020), data on daily COVID-19 confirmed deaths from PHE (by NHS region and age group), and published information on the risk of dying and the time from infection to death, to reconstruct the number of new COVID-19 infections over time; estimate a measure of ongoing transmission (R); and predict the number of new COVID-19 deaths in different regions and age groups.
Graph of estimated number of new COVID-19 infections in England Graph of predicted deaths in England (red dots – observed)
The shaded areas show periods of national lockdown, the green lines show the dates (once confirmed) of the steps in the roadmap in the UK Government’s COVID-19 Response – Spring 2021, and the red line shows the date these results were produced (15 Oct 2021)
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