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Models Are The Focus As UK Kicks Off Covid Inquiry

A UK government panel will conduct a detailed review of how risk and epidemiological models were built and used during the pandemic.

Chris Westfall
Chris Westfall

The UK government will kick off 2023 with a detailed review of how policymakers and politicians utilized risk and epidemiological models to forecast, shape and enforce its COVID 19 pandemic response.

The UK Covid-19 Inquiry — established by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson as an independent panel — will pick apart the use of modeling as part of its broad mandate of scrutinizing the government’s response to the pandemic .

The focus in modeling will be part of that panel’s second “module” that will begin in January.

“Access to and use of medical and scientific expertise, including data and data modeling, is an important matter at the heart of this module” said Hugo Keith, a senior attorney with the panel during initial testimony earlier this month. “Did key decision-makers have sufficient and proper access to reliable data and data modeling? How reliable was the infectious disease data modeling? Did the data modeling cover the right eventualities? Was there an over-reliance on epidemiological modeling or mathematical modeling? Was there a over-reliance on influenza epidemiology and data modeling in the advice that was provided?”

According to a transcript of the panel’s kick off in November, they will seek expert testimony to review the UK government’s systems for measuring and the estimating COVID 19 infections as well as infectious disease epidemiology the resulting models.

Jamie Dawson, another attorney representing the inquiry, said that following the testimony the panel will issue several reports later in 2023 that will have a focus on data collection and modeling that will include:

  • The relationship between and operation of systems for the collection, modeling and dissemination of data between government departments and between the government, the National Health System and the care sector.
  • statistical methods in infectious disease epidemiology, mathematical modeling of the spread of virus transmission, infection, mutation, reinfection and death, international comparison of modeling systems;
  • data sharing in government and with regional and devolved administrations, and counterfactual modeling to estimate whether and how different decisions would have resulted in different outcomes.

Keith said the goal of the panels look into the use of modeling during the pandemic was to determine if the government “have relevant and accurate data” to respond to the crisis.

While its likely the UK leveraged multiple data sets and models during the COVID-19 crisis, the government was primary advised by the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling, Operational sub-group (SPI-M-O) of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).

In addition, significant expertise was provided by the Imperial College of London’s MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis and Abdul Latif Jameel Institute for Disease and Emergency Analytics.

Covid 19 models