Prof Neil Ferguson: Reflections on the role of epidemiological modelling in informing the response to COVID-19.

Abstract:  Epidemiological analysis and mathematical modelling have played an influential role in informing the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This lecture will provide an introduction to basic concepts and approaches, before reviewing work leading to the early characterisation of the threat posed by COVID-19 and which informed response measures world-wide. I will then discuss the difficulties posed for countries in sustaining control later in 2020 and the challenges posed by new viral variants. Next, I will illustrate how modelling informed UK vaccination policy and the “roadmap out of lockdown” in the context of the Delta and Omicron waves. I will then briefly discuss the benefits of using multiple models with differing levels of complexity to address critical questions and the technical gaps in modelling of epidemic dynamics revealed by the pandemic.  I will conclude with thoughts on the communication and politicisation of science during the pandemic and lessons learned for future preparedness.

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