Epidemiology is the study of how diseases spread within populations. One way we do this is using our best understanding of the way the infection is passed on and how it affects people who catch it to create mathematical simulations. Because people who catch Covid-19 have a relatively long period in which they can pass it on to others before they begin to have symptoms, and the majority of people infected with the virus will experience mild symptoms, this "epidemiological modelling" provides insights into the epidemic that cannot easily be measured through testing e.g. of those with symptoms, as it estimates the total number of new daily infections and infectious people, including those who are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms.
Modelling also allows us to make short-term forecasts of what may happen with a degree of uncertainty. These can be used in health care and other planning. The modelling in this research findings is undertaken using different types of data which going forward aims to both model the progress of the epidemic in Scotland and provide early indications of where any changes are taking place.
The delivery of the vaccination programme will offer protection against severe disease and death. The modelling includes assumptions about compliance with restrictions and vaccine take-up. Work is still ongoing to understand how many vaccinated people might still spread the virus if infected. As Covid-19 is a new disease there remain uncertainties associated with vaccine effectiveness. Furthermore, there is a risk that new variants emerge for which immunisation is less effective.
How the modelling compares to the real data as it emerges
Since last week, the method of producing the medium term projections (figures 10 - 12) has been updated. The update uses the published actual numbers of infections, hospital admissions and ICU admissions directly, rather than modelling them from the beginning of the epidemic. This means the projections now begin from the point the published data ends.
There is no longer a confidence interval around the actual infections in Figure 10 because there is no longer any uncertainty from simulating infections during this period. There is still uncertainty in the ascertainment rate, which is represented by the whiskers around the actual infections.
The confidence intervals around the actual hospital and ICU occupancy in figures 11 and 12 now represent uncertainty in the assumptions for the hospitalisation rate and hospital length of stay, rather than uncertainty in the number of infections. These confidence intervals are created by applying sensitivity analysis to the assumptions.
The following charts show the history of our modelling projections in comparison to estimates of the actual data. The infections projections were largely accurate during October to mid-December 2020 and from mid‑January 2021 onwards. During mid-December 2020 to mid‑January 2021, the projections underestimated the number of infections, due to the unforeseen effects of the new variant.
Hospital bed projections have generally been more precise than infections estimates due to being partially based on already known information about numbers of current infections, and number of people already in hospital. The projections are for number of people in hospital due to Covid-19, which is slightly different to the actuals, which are number of people in hospital within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test.
As with hospital beds, ICU bed projections have generally been more precise than infections. The projections are for number of people in ICU due to Covid-19. The actuals are number of people in ICU within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test up to 20 January 2021, after which they include people in ICU over the 28 day limit.
|Probability of exceeding (cases per 100K)|
|Local Authority (LA)||50||100||300||500|
|Argyll and Bute||75-100%||75-100%||50-75%||15-25%|
|City of Edinburgh||75-100%||75-100%||50-75%||15-25%|
|Dumfries & Galloway||75-100%||75-100%||75-100%||50-75%|
|Na h-Eileanan Siar||-||-||-||-|
|Perth and Kinross||75-100%||75-100%||50-75%||50-75%|
What levels of Covid-19 are indicated by wastewater data?
Table 2 provides population weighted daily averages for normalised WW Covid-19 levels in the weeks beginning 2nd November and 9th November 2021, with no estimate for error. This is given in Million gene copies per person, which approximately corresponds to new cases per 100,000 per day. Coverage is given as percentage of LA inhabitants covered by a wastewater Covid‑19 sampling site delivering data during this period.
|Local authority (LA)||w/b 2nd November||w/b 9th November||Coverage|
|Argyll and Bute||–||–||3%|
|City of Edinburgh||53.4||34||98%|
|Dumfries & Galloway||62.8||76||38%|
|Na h-Eileanan Siar||–||–||0%|
|Perth and Kinross||84.7||80||45%|