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QIMR Berghofer researchers lead COVID-19 modelling of reopening scenarios for the Queensland Government

QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute has provided preliminary COVID-19 modelling of reopening scenarios in Queensland, to the Queensland Government.

The modelling led by five researchers at QIMR Berghofer looked at the vaccine rollout and what might happen if the borders reopen, restrictions are relaxed and there is an increase of cases in Queensland.

Lead Author, Associate Professor James Roberts says the modelling focused on four potential border opening points, triggered by meeting double-vaccinated coverage targets from 70 per cent to 90 per cent of the 16 and over population.

“Most of the modelling scenarios looked at the case where immunity peaks after the second dose, then stays high for the remainder of the simulation. An additional analysis explored what might happen if immunity instead wanes from the peak, finding that infections may increase at a higher rate,” said Assoc. Prof Roberts.

He says the modelling shows that hospitals may come under pressure before control measures can be enacted but the increased load will be within manageable limits.

“The modelling suggests that if we were to reopen when 80 per cent of the eligible population are double-dosed and cases start coming to Queensland, then in several months there would be around 1200 cases per day at the peak. Hospital bed occupancy would reach about 2000 and ICUs could reach a peak occupancy of 500 to 600, which is within the surge capacity possible in Queensland.”

Senior Modeller, Dr Paula Sanz-Leon from QIMR Berghofer says the research also shows that infections will be concentrated on the young and old, but severe outcomes will be mainly in older people.

“So for children or adolescents, the modelling predicts that deaths would be at zero or in single digits, whereas in the 45 to 65-year-old age groups, they may be in the 10s,” Dr Sanz-Leon said.

The model is one of multiple used to assist Queensland’s response to COVID-19 and the potential impact of the pandemic on the State.

QIMR Berghofer CEO and Director, Professor Fabienne Mackay, says the Institute is at the forefront of COVID-19 research.

“The COVID -19 global pandemic is an unprecedented health emergency, we are proud that our expertise in modelling, which is built on many decades of knowledge of infectious diseases, has helped inform the Queensland Government at this critical time,” said Professor Mackay.

“Our researchers are also involved in world-leading COVID-19 research that ranges from trying to find treatments to prevent severe disease, to mental health impacts of COVID-19.”

Additionally, QIMR Berghofer is continuing to work with the Queensland Government on further modelling to assist with its response to the pandemic.

Both initiatives are preliminary and ongoing and will be updated as more information comes to hand.

The full report is available here.