Data Readiness: Lessons from an Emergency
Tuesday, November 24, 2020
Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic has required rapid decision-making in changing circumstances. Those decisions and their effects on the health and wealth of the nation can be better informed with data. Today, technologies that can acquire data are pervasive. Data is continually produced by devices like mobile phones, payment points and road traffic sensors. This creates opportunities for nowcasting of important metrics such as GDP, population movements and disease prevalence, which can be used to design policy interventions that are targeted to the needs of specific sectors or localities. The data collected as a by-product of daily activities is different to epidemiological or other population research data that might be used to drive the decisions of state. These new forms of data are happenstance, in that they are not originally collected with a particular research or policy question in mind but are created through the normal course of events in our digital lives, and our interactions with digital systems and services.
This happenstance data pertains to individual citizens and their daily activities. To be useful it needs to be anonymized, aggregated and statistically calibrated to provide meaningful metrics for robust decision making while managing concerns about individual privacy or business value. This process necessitates particular technical and domain expertise that is often found in academia, but it must be conducted in partnership with the industries, and public sector organisations, that collect or generate the data and government authorities that take action based on those insights. Such collaborations require governance mechanisms that can respond rapidly to emerging areas of need, a common language between partners about how data is used and how it is being protected, and careful stewardship to ensure appropriate balancing of data subjects’ rights and the benefit of using this data. This is the landscape of data readiness; the availability and quality of the UK nation’s data dictates our ability to respond in an agile manner to evolving events.
SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine Development & Implementation; Scenarios, Options, Key Decisions
Thursday, October 1, 2020
The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has led to a global effort to develop, test, manufacture and distribute effective vaccines at unprecedented speed. There are currently over 200 vaccine candidates in development and the results of initial large-scale trials are expected soon; however, to deliver a successful vaccination programme, many challenges remain. This report discusses the key issues involved in developing, evaluating, manufacturing and distributing a vaccine for COVID-19, the impact of those challenges and future strategies to mitigate their effects.
Economic Aspects of the COVID-19 Crisis in the UK
Friday, August 14, 2020
The coming months will bring new challenges for the economy and public health, as winter brings with it the risk of a second wave of infections and, over the longer term, changing patterns of local and national lockdowns become a ‘new normal’. Tackling these challenges will require targeted policies that are sensitive both to the spread of the disease and the economic costs of different interventions.
To help policymakers tackle these challenges we have drawn on insights from recent economic work into the pandemic that transcends the crude ‘health versus the economy’ dichotomy that indiscriminate lockdown measures tend to invoke, and instead seeks to explore more targeted interventions that have the potential to alleviate the trade-off between lives and livelihoods, attaining more desirable outcomes in both dimensions. We suggest methodologies including how economic models can incorporate insights from epidemiology; we review evidence about pandemic economic impacts; we suggest tools and methods that will be useful in monitoring the economy as it attempts to recover; and we suggest data required for conducting economic analysis.
Balancing the Risks of Pupils Returning to Schools
Friday, July 24, 2020
As we move into a phase of continuously reviewing decisions to keep schools open or shut, we need to recognise there are risks from having schools open and risks from having schools shut. In open schools, the risks to pupils themselves from COVID-19 are very low, though there are risks to school staff, parents/carers and the wider community.
Closing schools causes loss of learning and deterioration in children’s mental and physical health, for example. Keeping schools shut increases inequalities, in both children’s education achievement and their long-term prospects. The goal of “levelling up” therefore needs schools to be open. Keeping schools open is also the key to unlocking the rest of the economy, allowing parents to leave teaching to teachers and return to their own jobs. The evidence on the infection risk from school opening is limited, though to date it suggests that the risk from opening schools, relative to restarting many other activities, is not as high. The experience of most other countries which have already taken this step supports this. By contrast, the evidence on the negative impact of closing schools is considerable and robust.
Scoping Report on Hospital and Health Care Acquisition of COVID-19 and its Control
Monday, July 6, 2020
- The focus of this report is on SARS-CoV-2 infection acquired in hospital. It is timed to inform decisions about the opening up of hospitals and other healthcare settings for non-COVID-19 activities and NHS plans for winter and future waves of COVID-19.
- Transmission of COVID-19 in hospitals and social care settings in patients, residents and staff has been recognised as an important feature of the COVID-19 epidemic throughout the world; efforts to prevent infections have had varying success. Transmissions early in the epidemic reflected evolving understanding of the disease (e.g., the risk of asymptomatic infection and role of masks in source control) and limited access to testing and personal protective equipment.
Test, Trace, Isolate
Wednesday, May 27, 2020
When effectively implemented at scale, Test, Trace, Isolate (TTI) can contribute to controlling the UK COVID-19 epidemic, but only as part of a wider package of public health interventions, including physical and social distancing, control of infection procedures, outbreak investigation and control. TTI is most effective in breaking chains of transmission, and reducing the effective reproductive number ($R_e$), when there is maximum: (i) speed, i.e., quick turn-around of both index case testing and contact tracing (and testing); (ii) compliance, i.e., a high proportion of people in each chain are willing and able to follow guidance; and (iii) coverage, i.e., identification of most chains through integration of consistent case data and real-time, high-precision population surveillance. Each of these three aspects of TTI needs careful attention, as do the trade-offs implicit in choices of how precisely to implement TTI in terms of who to test, trace and isolate, and when to do so.
Face Masks for the General Public
Monday, May 4, 2020
An update to this report is available here.
Face masks could offer an important tool for contributing to the management of community transmission of Covid19 within the general population. Evidence supporting their potential effectiveness comes from analysis of: (1) the incidence of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission; (2) the role of respiratory droplets in transmission, which can travel as far as 1-2 meters; and (3) studies of the use of homemade and surgical masks to reduce droplet spread. Our analysis suggests that their use could reduce onward transmission by asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic wearers if widely used in situations where physical distancing is not possible or predictable, contrasting to the standard use of masks for the protection of wearers. If correctly used on this basis, face masks, including homemade cloth masks, can contribute to reducing viral transmission.