Smart Dubai and Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU) have jointly developed a new novel epidemiological model to analyse and predict the spread of the COVID-19 virus. It is a specialised version of the SEIR (Susceptible-Exposed-Infected-Removed) model, which is commonly used in epidemiology to mathematically understand and patternise the spread of infectious diseases with incubation periods.
Since the SEIR model prototype is largely generic, it was unable to capture the unique nature of a novel viral pandemic, like the COVID-19 virus. Keeping that in mind, researchers at Smart Dubai and MBRU established and tested a specialised compartmental version of the SEIR model, named the SEAHIR (Susceptible-Exposed-Asymptomatic-Hospitalised-Isolated-Removed) model.
The new model has enhanced capabilities to capture the unique dynamics of the COVID-19 outbreak. With the help of a detailed framework, it can also predict healthcare requirements to address the outbreak. The model also analyses the impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions such as physical distancing and varied testing strategies on the number of confirmed infections.
The data and information related to the model were published in a special issue of the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health called 'Infectious Disease Modeling in the Era of Complex Data' in March 2021.
Significantly, the model was first used by Smart Dubai in its Smart Control Dashboard COVID-19. It was developed in coordination with Dubai’s COVID-19 Command and Control Center with the aim of monitoring and projecting the spread of novel Coronavirus in the city.
Speaking about the development, Younus Al Nasser, Assistant Director-General of Smart Dubai and Dubai Data Establishment CEO, stressed the paper is a crucial accomplishment as it outlines the authorities' data-driven approach to addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, with a special focus on the UAE and Dubai. He expressed honour in seeing the work on the model in partnership with the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences getting published in the renowned International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
"We, at Smart Dubai, have always believed data to be an exceptionally effective instrument for calculated decision-making," he added.
Al Nasser underlined that Smart Dubai's approach towards the pandemic and its repercussions echoed its strategies to boost Dubai’s digital transformation and sustainable development. These tasks were performed using accurate data to transform Dubai into the happiest smart city of the future, he noted.
Al Nasser is one of six authors who wrote the paper, along with Dr. Alexandros Leontitsis and Dr. Aamena Alshamsi from Smart Dubai and Professor Alawi Alsheikh-Ali, Professor Abiola Senok, and Dr. Tom Loney from the College of Medicine at the Mohammed bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences.
Dr. Amer Sharif, Vice-Chancellor of MBRU and Head of the Dubai COVID-19 Command and Control Centre also expressed appreciation in collaborating with Smart Dubai to develop the customised epidemiological model. Congratulating the teams at Smart Dubai and MBRU for their success, he encouraged continued efforts and deployment of knowledge and expertise to serve communities in need.
"Working on this research paper emphasised the university’s ethos of giving back to the community and its role as a hub of impactful research activity in the UAE," he added.
Dr Sharif stressed collaboration and sharing of knowledge are key to ending the global pandemic. He further noted that MBRU is committed to leading the way in shaping Dubai's proactive response to the pandemic.
"It is a matter of immense pride that our university has made a notable contribution in shaping Dubai’s response to the pandemic, one that is governed by science and driven by data," he said.
For their work, the joint team from Smart Dubai and MBRU used a publicly available dataset from the UAE as a case study for enhancing the key parameters of the model. Later, they benchmark the dataset against the historical number of cases.
The newly-developed SEAHIR model was used by Dubai’s COVID-19 Command and Control Centre to initiative rapid measures to develop testing strategies, reinforce healthcare capacity, and implement preventive measures to curtail the Coronavirus spread.
Notably, the novel six-compartment SEAHIR model could be employed and expanded by researchers and decision-makers in other countries in addressing current or future pandemics.