Home > COVID-19 Pandemic Update from AMSI

HOUSEHOLD IMPACTS OF COVID-19: ABS SURVEY – 2 June 2020

Latest ABS snapshot about how Australian households are faring in response to the changing social and economic environment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

PREDICTING THE PANDEMIC’S PSYCHOLOGICAL TOLL: MECHANISTIC AND STATISTICAL MODELLING – 1 June 2020

Jayashri Kulkarni, Professor of Psychiatry at Monash University, on the challenges of modelling in health.

Read more in The Conversation

“A FORECASTING MODEL IS AN OPINION COLUMN WITH MORE MATHS” – 26 May 2020

What will happen when we lose faith in modelling? Parnell Palme McGuinness in today’s Financial Review (Nine Media paywall access required).

AUSTRALIA’S COVID-19 LIFESTYLES REVEALED IN LATEST ABS REPORTING – 25 May 2020

One in five Australians is eating more snack foods with a similar proportion increasing alcohol consumption. Household chores, hobbies and cooking participation levels increased. Read the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics weekly report here.

BEFORE EPIDEMIOLOGISTS BEGAN MODELLING DISEASE, IT WAS THE JOB OF ASTROLOGERS – 20 May 2020

We turn to epidemiologists and infectious disease models; during the Bubonic plague people turned to astrologers.

[Read more history from UQ’s Michelle Pfeffer at The Conversation]

SWEDISH MODEL TRADES MORE DISEASE FOR LESS ECONOMIC DAMAGE – 20 May 2020

“If we are to reach a new normal, in many ways Sweden represents a future model.”

[Analysis and statistics in today’s AFR (Nine Media paywall access required)]

THE POSITIVES AND NEGATIVES OF MASS TESTING FOR CORONAVIRUS – 18 May 2020

No test is perfect and all carry a risk of harm of some kind … we must recognise this is also true for coronavirus. Jennifer MacLachlan and Benjamin Cowie of the Doherty Institute on “false positives”.

[Read more in The Conversation]

THE COSTS OF THE SHUTDOWN ARE OVERESTIMATED – THEY’RE OUTWEIGHED BY ITS $1 TRILLION BENEFIT – 18 May 2020

Economists Richard Holden (UNSW) and Bruce Preston (University of Melbourne) counter the movement advocating more rapid relaxation of containment measures on the basis of economic costs, and the notion of placing a dollar value on one person’s life.

[Read more about the value of a “statistical life” in The Conversation]

WHAT IMPACT IS THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC HAVING ON WOMEN IN THE STEM WORKFORCE? – 17 May 2020

Rapid Research Information Forum response from Australia’s Chief Scientist

[Read more through the Australian Academy of Sciences]

APRIL LABOUR MARKET STATISTICS FOR AUSTRALIA: “THE SCALE AND SPEED ARE DIFFICULT TO COMPREHEND” – 15 May 2020

University of Melbourne economist Professor Jeff Borland overview in ‘The Conversation’ this morning.

[Read more]

‘AS AUSTRALIA REOPENS, STAYING ON TOP OF TRANSMISSIONS REQUIRES BETTER DATA’: – 13 May 2020

Silent infections often carry similar levels of the COVID-19 virus, and modelling data shows they can contribute significantly to transmission. University of Melbourne Medical Dean Shitij Kapur’s insight into data and definitions in today’s AFR

[Read more in the Financial Review (Nine Media paywall access required)]

CORONAVIRUS: ELIMINATION IS NOT ERADICATION – 11 May 2020

UniSA Biostatistics Professor Adrian Esterman explains in ‘The Conversation’ why COVID-19 will probably be eliminated but never completely eradicated.

[Read more]

SAFELY RELAXING SOCIAL DISTANCING COMES DOWN TO HOUSE NUMBERS: QUT – 7 May 2020

Your house number could be the key to the safe relaxation of COVID-19-related restrictions if government follow a new exit strategy use an ‘odds-and-evens’ approach to allowing people to head back to work and enjoy other activities after weeks of lockdown.

A paper co-authored by QUT’s Professor Adrian Barnett published in the British Medical Journal.

Co-authored by Professor Adrian Barnett, a statistician with QUT’s School of Public Health and Social Work, the paper suggests governments around the globe are seeking to balance competing priorities.

“Social distancing has certainly been proven to reduce the rate of transmission of COVID-19 but has had a negative impact on the economy and created other health issues,” said Professor Barnett.

row of numbered letterboxes“A major problem with relaxing restrictions too quickly is the limited evidence on how this will affect transmission of the virus and no-one wants to see another wave of infection and deaths which would lead to a return to lockdown.

“We propose an interim solution in which allowing people to return to a less-restricted life should be based on odd or even house numbers. For example, people in odd numbered houses have relaxed restrictions on odd days in the month (1st, 3rd, etc) and people in even number houses on even days (2nd, 4th, etc).

“This halves the population mixing, which reduces the risk of a new wave occurring, and it creates useful data for judging whether restrictions can be further relaxed or should be tightened.”

Read more at the QUT website and in BMJ.

‘LIFE BEYOND CORONAVIRUS’: THE EXPERT VIEW [PODCAST]; PART 2 OF 6 – 4 May 2020
Professor Jodie Mcvernon and a panel experts from across the University of Melbourne explore how mathematical modelling got us to this point, the new trace-and-track app, how it works and if it has a role to play in lifting restrictions, and just how long can Government keep us at home? Hosted by Professor Shitij Kapur.

LIFE BEYOND CORONAVIRUS: THE EXPERT VIEW – 21 April 2020

Professor James McCaw joins an expert panel of University of Melbourne researchers and academics in an online Pursuit video review of the latest COVID-19 data. Features Doherty Institute chief Sharon Lewin, and hosted by Shitij Kapur.

View video

PROFESSOR JODIE MCVERNON ON ABC TV’S ‘Q+A’ – 20 April 2020

COVID-19: Where To Next?

Doherty Institute epidemiologist delivering modelling to government joins Neville Power (Chairman, National COVID-19 Coordination Commission), ACTU Secretary Sally McManus,ethicist Simon Longstaff and UNSW economist Gigi Foster. Hosted and moderated by Hamish Macdonald.

Read more

VICTORIA SAW DIRE WARNING IN MODELLING AND ‘CHANGED THE FUTURE’ – 20 April 2020

Michaela Whitbourn in the Sydney Morning Herald

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Professor Brett Sutton, said the state would have faced 650 deaths per day at its peak if it had not introduced tough measures to curb the spread of the virus.

Modelling done by the University of Melbourne, Monash University and the Victorian Health Department suggested the state would have recorded 58,000 infections per day at its peak if action had not been taken to flatten the curve, Professor Sutton said on Monday.

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said the state “changed the future” by heeding warnings in modelling. He said the modelling “uses assumptions based on the experience of countries overseas as well as data from Australia to inform what might have occurred had we only had a case isolation and contact [tracing] process in place without social distancing measures”.

“We saw this modelling and we changed the future two months ago by virtue of what we saw. We changed the assumptions in the modelling by virtue of the measures that have been many place for weeks at different levels,” he said.

DOHERTY INSTITUTE MODELLING SHOWS CORONAVIRUS BEING SUPPRESSED – 17 April 2020

Jodie McVernon commentary in The New Daily

DOHERTY INSTITUTE AND UNIVERSITY OF MELBOURNE MODELLING GUIDING COVID-19 RESPONSE – 8 April 2020

AMSI members are the forefront of the complex modelling behind the Government’s response to this deadly coronavirus pandemic, with mathematicians creating models of the population to predict the course and impact of the virus.

But how does this work, and why do governments act upon such predictions?

Professors James McCaw and Jodie McVernon of the University of Melbourne / Doherty Institute provided an insight into their COVID-19 modelling to ABC News today.

Professor McCaw said “they put some ‘very scary numbers’ to the Government early on, and they were not dismissed. We don’t have an overwhelmed hospital system yet, and we may well never have one if we continue to base our responses on the best available data.”

Professors McCaw and McVernon both feature in the AMSI Maths Delivers video: ‘The Spread of Disease’ providing an insight into the mathematical modelling of susceptibility, infection spread and recovery of disease in populations.


“We cannot promise lives will not be lost”:
Modelling expert Professor Jodie McVernon interviewed by Sabra Lane on AM ABC Radio

Professor James McCaw

James McCaw is a mathematical biologist and infectious diseases epidemiologist with a PhD in theoretical physics from the University of Melbourne.  He holds a joint appointments at the University of Melbourne in Mathematics and Statistics within the Faculty of Science (alongside his role as Associate Dean – Research) and at the University’s School of Population and Global Health

Professor McCaw’s interests span from modelling host-pathogen-drug dynamics, focusing on influenza and malaria, to developing public health control strategies for emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases. One of his current projects is Household Transmission Investigation for Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Aka Ffx Full Implementation.

Professor Jodie McVernon

Professor Jodie McVernon is a physician with subspecialty qualifications in public health and vaccinology based at the Doherty Institute. Jodie possesses extensive expertise in clinical vaccine trials, epidemiologic studies and mathematical modelling of infectious diseases.

These focus on the application of a range of cross-disciplinary methodological approaches including mathematical and computational models, to synthesise insights from basic biology, epidemiological data and sociological research. Such models advance understanding of the observed epidemiology of infectious diseases and inform understanding of optimal interventions for disease control.

AMSI ONLINE RESOURCES EXPLAIN THE MATHEMATICS OF DISEASE – 8 April 2020

AMSI is offering free online resources including videos informing the community of the power of mathematics, statistics and data modelling in the epidemeological response to the COVID-19 crisis

YouTube video "The Spread of DiseaseThe Spread of Disease is a video produced as part of AMSI’s Maths Delivers intitiative, providing an overview of the application of mathematical sciences in modelling the susceptibility, infection spread and recovery of disease in populations.

Presenters include Professor James McCaw of the University of Melbourne’s School of Mathematics and Statistics who holds a joint appointment with the School of Population and Global Health, and Professor Jodie McVernon, an expert in public health and vaccinology at the renowned Doherty Institute.

AMSI also offers a significant range educational resources for teachers enhancing understanding of the mathematical sciences.  Beyond enhancing knowledge of mathematical modelling of disease, AMSI Calculate provides a diverse range of engaging multimedia materials explaining maths concepts and enhancing learning.  These online resources are easily accessed online and available free to teachers seeking to optimise digital delivery of lessons.

WINTER SCHOOL 2020 UPDATE

AMSI and Winter School 2020 hosts The University of Queensland are conforming to public health directives aimed at reducing the spread of infection throughout the community.

Therefore the AMSI Winter School on New Directions in Representation Theory will not be staged in accordance with the intended July 2020 schedule.

We are currently exploring all possibilities to host this program at a later date and will provide updates via AMSI web, Facebook and Twitter.

Students will be contacted directly regarding refund of registration fees.

We thank all of our partners including The University of Queensland, SMRI and MSRI for their support during this challenging time.

PROFESSOR TIM BROWN’S EXPERIENCE IN THE HERALD-SUN 3 April 2020

This illness is incredibly easy to catch – Ashley Argoon PDF of Article

MODELS HAVE SUPPORTED AUSTRALIA’S RESPONSE TO COVID-19 – 1 April 2020

James McCaw and Jodie McVernon on mathematical modelling of infectious disease in Cosmos

A PERSONAL UPDATE FROM PROFESSOR TIM BROWN, DIRECTOR AMSI, 1 April 2020

Dear AMSI Stakeholders and Friends,

Thanks so much for all your good wishes.  I regret that I have not yet been able to reply to these individually given the pressure of the many changes at AMSI caused by COVID-19 (as everywhere!).

Fortunately, I have been fit enough to work throughout and I want to say a huge public thank-you to the AMSI Executive and the Board for their wonderful support and encouragement in this time of personal and professional challenge.  Adelle Howse as Chair of the AMSI Board has played the crucial role leading the Board and giving me daily support, guidance and encouragement to face the challenges as best as I can.

The good news is that I received a phone call and subsequent letter this morning from the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services confirming that I met their criteria to end isolation.  Of course, I will continue to be in contact with my medical advisors should there be a need and will carefully practice the recommendations of the government more generally.

There is another person to whom I want to say a special thank-you.  During their illness, my close contact has worked tirelessly and wisely on the project that brought them to AMSI.  This is to the great benefit of mathematical sciences in Australia.  As I said to this person repeatedly, I consider myself lucky to have contracted the virus early whilst medical facilities in Australia have capacity to deal with people diagnosed as COVID-19 positive.

Please all stay safe – I just hope that my experience of the infectiousness of the virus can add a tiny bit to the public awareness.

Thanks again,

Tim

A PERSONAL MESSAGE FROM PROFESSOR TIM BROWN, DIRECTOR AMSI, 24 March 2020

In the changed world that we face AMSI operations are continuing as normal, albeit online rather than face-to-face. Staff are successfully working from home across all our programs.

Last night I was confirmed as positive with COVID-19 having had close contact with someone at AMSI’s Parkville offices last Tuesday. The person was subsequently diagnosed as positive.

At that time, the person I had contact with displayed no symptoms. We did not touch and remained 1 to 1.5 metres apart for the duration of our 90 minute meeting. It is important for as many people as possible to know how infectious this disease is.

Fortunately, my symptoms so far have been mild, and I’m fit for work. I remain focused on delivering AMSI’s mission and plans. The key to this is our AMSI staff and their welfare remains a primary concern to me as operations continue as normal but with changed methodologies.

I’m very confident that together the strong, powerful and focused AMSI team can get through this well and that we will seize any opportunity we have to assist Australia with all the health, social and economic challenges that face us.

Kind regards,

Tim

UPDATE 23 March 2020

Vice Chancellor Duncan Maskell’s Statement on second confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) case

Please note that further to this statement, access to AMSI Building 161 has been restored however staff normally domiciled in this building continue to work remotely until further notice.

STATEMENT 19 March 2020

Dear AMSI members, friends and stakeholders,

Please be reassured in these difficult times that AMSI and our team are committed to sustaining business continuity and maintaining our mission.

The dispersed nature of our business relationships and delivery combined with the significant IT capability of the University of Melbourne enables us to continue in as close to a ‘business as usual’ manner as possible with revised work practices.

In accordance with evolving University of Melbourne policy and procedures (based on Chief Medical Officer advice) our office [Building 161] at the Parkville campus is closed until further notice.  AMSI staff continue operating at dispersed locations — often from at home.  There are also travel restrictions in place in accordance with this policy.

During this period AMSI team members remain contactable via email and mobile phone, and in most instances office phones will divert seamlessly to remote locations.  Zoom video conferencing is also available enabling ‘face-to-face’ contact to continue electronically.

We are also working through education delivery, PhD internship and business relationship management issues with a view to minimising disruption and providing policy clarity.

AMSI will issue periodic updates on our response to this situation via our website amsi.org.au and our social media channels.

The mathematical sciences have a great part to play in managing and resolving this challenge to humankind.

I thank you for your understanding and flexibility regarding this evolving situation and assure you that AMSI will continue to adapt and function effectively throughout this period.

Tim