Kota Samarahan, 25 March 2021: Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) research team has recently developed a web-based simulation tool that can help to monitor COVID-19 outbreak for Malaysia. Faculty of Computer Science and Information Technology (FCSIT) Senior Researcher Associate Professor Dr Jane Labadin and her team collaborated with the Health Ministry’s Institute for Medical Research to formulate a disease model to help decision makers decide on the best option in mitigating the disease outbreak.
Known as the COVID Malaysia Simulation or COVID-MYSim, it is based on a mathematical model that can calculate the basic reproduction number of COVID-19 cases in Malaysia. The reproduction number, which is the average number of times that an infected person would spread during their infectious period, is also known as the R0 (R – naught), a term that has been mentioned by Health Director General Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah in his COVID-19 briefings.
The R0 represents the maximum epidemic potential of a pathogen and this would describe the possibility of an infectious person coming into contact to a fully vulnerable group of people. Through COVID-MYSim, the formulated results will show the direct relation of human contacts by an infected person and the proportion of the exposed person who do not perform effective precaution such as observance of the standard COVID-19 SOPs, that is, avoiding crowded places, wearing face masks, and ensuring hand hygiene. The figures will also be able to show that fewer contacts and higher personal precaution will result in smaller reproduction number (R0).
Dr Jane said the COVID-MYSim can also be used on a smaller scale such as for a particular state and even at district level. Dr Jane and her team began their research on disease modelling 13 years ago and among the disease models they formulated includes malaria, dengue, SARS, Zika virus, the Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease, and rabies.
Similar models for COVID-19 have also been developed by other research teams in the world, such as COVID-19 Scenarios by Basel University, Switzerland; CoMo (Covid-19 Modelling) Consortium by University of Oxford and Cornell University; Squire by the Medical Research Council (MRC) Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis, Imperial College, London, and COVASim by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Institute for Disease Modelling.
These models are similar as they all apply mathematical modelling. However, they cater to different purposes and are also based on data from various countries (high income countries versus low- and middle-income countries). Regardless of their specific objectives, the main goal of these mathematical models is to support decision makers in their decisions regarding COVID-19 scenarios. This includes planning for intensive care units or hospital beds.
With more research teams from other countries using mathematical modelling, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation organised the COVID-19 Multi-Model Comparison Collaboration (CMCC) with collaboration from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department for International Development (UK), the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, the international Support Decision Initiative (iDSI), the Norway Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), the Royal Thai Government, USAID, the World Bank and the World Health Organization.
The purpose of the CMCC is to help enhance the use of mathematical models and help policymakers interpret models, foster collaboration between modelers, and assess the fitness-for-purpose of what COVID-19 models produce in terms of the policy questions that need to be resolved related to disease control.
Dr Jane, who is also a CMCC member, recently shared about COVID-19 MYSim on how mathematics is used in the practical world during epidemics at the UNIMAS International Day of Mathematics celebration webinar via Webex on March 15, 2021. The webinar was attended by more than 200 registered participants on Webex and more than 200 viewers via FCSIT UNIMAS YouTube channel.
For further details on the event:
AP Dr Jane Labadin