COVID-19 modelling for Queenslanders

In 2021, QIMR Berghofer was commissioned by Queensland Health to provide preliminary COVID-19 modelling to inform the Queensland government’s roadmap for reopening of the state’s borders.

The modelling responded to the central question: As the vaccine rollout progresses, what might happen if borders reopen, restrictions relax, and there is an influx of cases into Queensland?

QIMR Berghofer modelled four potential border reopening points triggered by meeting double-vaccinated coverage targets; 70% of the 16+ population, 80% of the 16+ population, 85% of the 16+ population and 90% of the 16+ population.

From the simulations, researchers estimated trajectories of COVID-19 cases, hospitalisations, ICU requirements and deaths in Queensland over the period from October 2021 to August 2022.

Since it was established in 1945, The Queensland Institute of Medical Research, now known as QIMR Berghofer has researched branches of medical science with particular interest directed towards illnesses affecting Queenslanders. In 1945, it was tropical infectious diseases and deadly gastro outbreaks, and today, 76 years later, the many complicated health crises include mental health and the COVID-19 pandemic.

In mid-2020, in response to the pandemic, the QIMR Berghofer Brain Modelling Group, led by Associate Professor James Roberts, branched out into COVID-19 modelling.

The detailed COVID-19 modelling provided to Queensland Health in October 2021, by Associate Professor Roberts and his team, was prepared using methodologies used by the Burnet Institute in Victoria and New South Wales and a computational platform from The Institute for Disease Modeling, Seattle.

The trajectories and conclusions, communicated and discussed broadly in the media, have been used by the government to inform the roadmap for the reopening of the state, and to convince Queenslanders to be fully vaccinated. At the time the COVID-19 Modelling was released, just 56.68 per cent of eligible Queenslanders had been double-vaccinated. After the roadmap was announced, and the final vaccination push, Queensland re-opened a week earlier on 13 December 2021.

The modelling included scenarios for hospital bed and intensive care occupancy, conclusions about Queensland’s decentralized geography and potential effects of COVID outbreaks on the health system in regional areas, and the conclusion that extending the vaccine rollout to younger children may help reduce case numbers.

Associate Professor Roberts’s team were able to provide tailored modelling for Queensland decision makers, that took into account the state’s own experience of COVID and its unique geography and demographics. This work is ongoing, and will be updated as more information comes to hand.


Figure 1: Modelled vaccine coverage on the reopening day 17 December 2021. Percentages are of the 16+ population, double dose; the rollout extends to 12+.

Source: Modelling COVID-19 in Queensland: Preliminary modelling of reopening, effects on the Hospital and Health Services, Dec 6.

Figure 2: In the model (shown here with a population of 20 people, with age structure and household sizes based on Malawi data), these dynamic contacts are approximated as static average daily contacts between layers. Individuals have different numbers of connections (lines) and connection weights (line widths; default relative weights shown) for each layer.


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