Estimating COVID Risk During a Period of Pandemic Decline

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Background: Many parts of the world that succeeded in suppressing epidemic coronavirus spread in 2020 have been caught out by recent changes in the transmission dynamics of SARS-CoV-2. Australia's early success in suppressing COVID-19 resulted in lengthy periods without community transmission. However, a slow vaccine rollout leaves this geographically isolated population vulnerable to leakage of new variants from quarantine, which requires internal travel restrictions, disruptive lockdowns, contact tracing and testing surges. Methods: To assist long term sustainment of limited public health resources, we sought a method of continuous, real-time COVID-19 risk monitoring that could be used to alert non-specialists to the level of epidemic risk on a sub-national scale. After an exploratory data assessment, we selected four COVID-19 metrics used by public health in their periodic threat assessments, applied a business continuity matrix and derived a numeric indicator; the COVID-19 Risk Estimate (CRE), to generate a daily spot CRE, a 3 day net rise and a seven day rolling average. We used open source data updated daily from all Australian states and territories to monitor the CRE for over a year. Results: Upper and lower CRE thresholds were established for the CRE seven day rolling average, corresponding to risk of sustained and potential outbreak propagation, respectively. These CRE thresholds were used in a real-time map of Australian COVID-19 risk estimate distribution by state and territory. Conclusions: The CRE toolkit we developed complements other COVID-19 risk management techniques and provides an early indication of emerging threats to business continuity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number744819
JournalFrontiers in Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 17 Dec 2021


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