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To travel, or not to travel? New Covid-19 dashboard will help you decide

The new Covid-19 dashboard aims to help the public make informed decisions about interprovincial travelling and daily movement. (Photo: theverge.com / Wikipedia)

A new Covid-19 dashboard aims to help the public make informed decisions about interprovincial travelling and daily movement.

On Tuesday 15 December the South African Covid-19 Modelling Consortium (SACMC) together with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases launched the SACMC Epidemic Explorer dashboard. The dashboard assists the public in understanding the risks of Covid-19 infections and making educated decisions about interprovincial travelling and daily movement.

The SACMC Epidemic Explorer dashboard allows the public to explore the Covid-19 epidemic in South Africa by providing an analysis of the resurgence risk, presenting metrics to prepare for future outbreaks, and monitoring Covid-19 hospital admissions.

Dr Gesine Meyer-Rath, an associate professor at the University of the Witwatersrand and Boston University, says that “the health system needs to prepare for a surge in cases and hospitalisations”.

Meyer-Rath explains that early detection metrics for resurgence are critical and that the public “needs data to make decisions about travel and risk by considering both cases and current hospital occupancy”.

Data used for the dashboard is updated regularly with ongoing input from clinicians, virologists, and epidemiologists to refine key model assumptions and parameters.

“Uploading long-term projections requires seroprevalence data at a district level, information on changes in the adherence to non-pharmacological interventions, and data on contact pattern behaviour,” says Meyer-Rath.

What the dashboard looks like

The colour palette, which was created by the IBM Design Library, was chosen with the intention of being accessible to people who are colour-blind (protanopia, deuteranopia, or tritanopia).

The dashboard is user-friendly and while it can be viewed on a mobile device, it is best viewed on a laptop or tablet. The page provides a “Resurgence Analysis” tab as well as a tab on hospital admission. The Resurgence Analysis tab shows two types of metrics: case threshold metrics and sustained increase monitoring.

The case threshold metric is used to measure the Covid-19 risk level in a province or district. In this metric, an alert is triggered if new cases per week per 100,000 population are above 10 but less than 30, and a response is triggered if new cases per week per 100,000 population exceed 30. The metric indicates the size of the caseload in an area and because it is measured per 100,000 population, it can be used to compare the size of the epidemic between areas.

Sustained increase monitoring provides an analysis of the epidemic curve to define a second wave and other stages of the epidemic in a province or district. These plots are used for monitoring sustained increases in case numbers and the current cases relative to the cases at the time of the most recent peak.

The “Hospital Admissions” tab shows the daily new Covid-19 admissions and current occupancy for public and private hospitals in a province.

These plots show the daily number of new Covid-19 patients admitted to hospital and the number of Covid-19 patients currently in the hospital at the provincial level.

By considering both the number of active cases and the current hospital occupancy, South Africans can use these metrics to assess the Covid-19 risk level in any district in the country. In addition, these metrics can be used to make informative decisions about interprovincial travelling during the pandemic. DM/MC

The SACMC is a group of researchers from academic, non-profit, and government institutions across South Africa. The group is coordinated by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, on behalf of the National Department of Health. The mandate of the group is to provide, assess and validate model projections to be used for planning purposes by the Government of South Africa. The work done by the SACMC is a collaboration between the following institutions, with input from a range of experts on the Consortium, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, the Modelling and Simulation Hub Africa (MASHA), and South African Centre for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis (SACEMA). For any queries relating to the dashboard or analysis, please contact [email protected]

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