Geospatial modelling to predict coronavirus prevalence at community level

New real time analysis demonstrating the spread of Covid-19 in Wales has directly informed the One Wales response to coronavirus.

MediWales reports the modelling demonstrates the value of a real time spatio-temporal inferential mapping platform for public health efforts during the emergence and spread of infectious diseases. The project has prototyped and delivered data infrastructures and analysis pipelines capable of delivering timely and insightful analytics to all levels of government.

The project is an exemplar of how a combination of skills, in this case health informatics, statistics and geography, is needed to provide insights to inform local and national government policy throughout the pandemic.

This research has been used by devolved administrations for pandemic planning, for example in identifying local hotspots that previous regional level mapping may have masked. To help understand the localised spread of Covid-19, this project has adapted sophisticated geospatial modelling methods to estimate the near real time prevalence of infections at community level using Covid-19 testing data. The maps generated provide the first fine scale, national assessment of the geographical distribution of laboratory confirmed Covid-19 infections.

Led by the Population Data Science department at Swansea University Medical School, with collaborations across the UK including members from Lancaster University, Health Data Research UK, Administrative Data Research Wales, the National Centre for Population Health and Wellbeing Research supported by the Medical Research Council, Health and Care Research Wales and Secure E-Research Platform (SeRP).

The project uses pathology data, which confirms a Covid-19 positive result based on testing and the date the test was taken. The data is held anonymously and securely in, and extracted from, the Secure Anonymised Information Linkage (SAIL) Databank. The SAIL Databank acts as a secure gateway to access sensitive data while protecting privacy. Data extracted from the SAIL Databank is then processed to generate suitable inputs for geospatial modelling. The modelled outputs include statistical confidence intervals and probability indicators for the prevalence estimation.

Further research is underway to refine the modelling and assess the accuracy with updates provided to the Welsh Government’s Technical Advisory Cell on a weekly basis.

One Wales is a rapid, intelligence driven response that brings together partners including HDR UK, ADR Wales, SAIL Databank, ADP, BREATHE, Welsh Government, Public Health Wales and NHS Wales Informatics Service (NWIS), to inform the response to Covid-19 in Wales.

This collaboration has resulted in an agile responsive approach to tackling policy relevant intelligence generation, based on both the constant and newly developing priorities for tackling Covid-19 in Wales. One Wales has informed Welsh Government Technical Advisory Group (TAG) and subsequently the UK’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).

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