A multi-disciplinary team of researchers from some of the country’s universities and civil society have put their heads together to develop a Covid-19 dashboard. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency(ANA)
A multi-disciplinary team of researchers from some of the country’s universities and civil society have put their heads together to develop a Covid-19 dashboard. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency(ANA)

SA researchers unveil national Covid-19 dashboard

By Sisonke Mlamla Time of article published Jan 19, 2021

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Cape Town - A multi-disciplinary team of researchers from some of the country’s universities and civil society have put their heads together to develop a Covid-19 dashboard to analyse the resurgence risk, monitor hospital admissions and present other essential data relating to the pandemic.

The dashboard was unveiled by the South African Covid-19 Modelling Consortium (SACMC) as its new SACMC epidemic explorer to enable the public to assess the Covid-19 risk level in any district in the country.

The consortium facilitated by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) comprised a group of researchers from UCT, Stellenbosch University (SU) and the University of the Witwatersrand, as well as non-profit organisations and government institutions.

NICD medical doctor and epidemiologist Dr Harry Moultrie said the purpose was to provide people with information regarding the Covid-19 epidemic in South Africa and allow them to assess the state of the epidemic in each district.

UCT’s Modelling and Simulation Hub Africa director, Dr Sheetal Silal, said for every district and province in the country, the dashboard presented two different metrics.

Silal said the first was a metric to measure the Covid-19 risk categorised into three groups – low, medium and high – based on positive cases.

“The metric indicates the size of the epidemic, and because it is measured per 100 000 of the population, it can also be used to compare the size of the epidemic between different districts,“ Silal said.

She said the dashboard also presented an analysis of the epidemic curve to establish when the second wave kicked off. That could also be used to assess if the daily case counts were increasing rapidly or slowing down.

“The dashboard depicts the new daily Covid-19 hospital admissions and current bed occupancy for both public and private hospitals per province, which also allows the public to gauge just how quickly hospitals are filling up,” said Silal.

Moultrie said the dashboard provided information on the sustained increase monitoring metric, which classified the state of each district’s epidemic curve according to whether the district is in a post-wave-period, upswing, sustained increase or new wave.

The Epidemic Explorer surveys the Covid-19 epidemic and highlights its spread throughout the country. Screenshot/report

He said throughout the epidemic, they have become accustomed to waiting for the Health Minister’s daily report to assess the number of new cases, deaths and positivity rate.

"It’s easy to forget that the trends reported for the country may be different in provinces and districts throughout the country. The strength of the dashboard is that it allows the public to monitor these trends using graphs and maps for all districts.“

SU’s South African Centre for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis (Sacema), director, Professor Juliet Pulliam, said as a partner in the consortium, Sacema has been involved in a number of activities related to tracking Covid-19 trends.

Pulliam said they have contributed to the development of the metrics shown on the dashboard and are responsible for monitoring sustained increases as well as evaluating epidemic waves, and have participated in regular status updates to decision-makers.

During his address on plans for the reopening of tertiary institutions, the developments and contribution of science and innovation in the fight against Covid-19 yesterday, Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande said the department's key task was to get a better understanding of the mechanisms of increased transmissibility.

Nzimande said scientists continued to work with their international counterparts to ensure that knowledge was pooled in order to bring Covid-19 under control.

The dashboard can be seen here: https://www.sacmcepidemicexplorer.co.za/.

Cape Argus

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