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February 19, 2021 Friday 04:38:12 PM IST

New national modelling group to provide faster COVID-19 predictions

Leadership Instincts

A new national consortium, co-led by the University of Cambridge, will bring together mathematical modellers to produce faster, more rigorous predictions for the COVID-19 pandemic and advise UK government bodies.

The JUNIPER consortium (‘Joint UNIversities Pandemic and Epidemiological Research’) brings together leading mathematical and statistical modellers from seven UK universities and has received £3 million in funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

JUNIPER is developing and using customised models to provide predictions and estimates on key questions about the COVID-19 pandemic. These results feed regularly into SPI-M, the modelling group that provides evidence to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) and the wider UK government.

Examples of modelling JUNIPER provides to government includes:

    Understanding how new variants are spreading across the UK and developing statistical models to determine whether new variants are causing more hospitalisations or deaths.
    Forecasting and providing real-time estimates of the R-value, using data from sources such as Pillar 1 and 2 testing, hospital data and mobility data. They are currently providing eight of 12 models contributing real-time R estimates that go from SPI-M to SAGE each week.
    Modelling the effectiveness of different testing strategies on virus transmission and suppression, and modelling the effect of vaccinations and predicting outcomes from different scenarios of how to ease lockdown restrictions.

The seven universities involved in JUNIPER are Cambridge, Warwick, Exeter, Oxford, Bristol, Manchester and Lancaster Universities.

They will work closely with other organisations and research teams active on COVID-19 research including the Alan Turing Institute, the Royal Statistical Society, Health Data Research UK, Public Health England, the Royal Society’s ‘RAMP’ initiative, and the Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences.