A new COVID-19 modelling tool, which aims to boost visitor safety during Expo 2020 Dubai, has been unveiled by the Department of Health (DoH) Abu Dhabi.

Nicknamed the “Expo 2020 Model”, the epidemiological testing tool reportedly assesses the real-time risk of further spread of the coronavirus, if any, alerting health authorities of any causes for concern. The tool allows the sector to “generate the best healthcare solutions for residents and visitors in the event of an increase in the number of cases,” the DoH explained during a launch ceremony at the Expo 2020 site.

“Today, Abu Dhabi continues to bolster the UAE’s efforts to ensure the health and safety of its citizens, residents, and tourists alike by employing the latest advanced technologies. The development of this epidemiological modelling tool represents an incredible milestone, and it will undoubtedly contribute to delivering a safer and more successful Expo 2020 event,” said H.E. Abdullah bin Mohamed Al Hamed, Chairman of the DoH. “This collaboration highlights the importance of consolidating efforts and leveraging UAE’s robust infrastructure to develop a solution that has the potential to improve disease management at many other large-scale events globally.

“A model of this kind serves not only to safeguard the health and safety of communities, but also to enhance business continuity and minimise the impact of the spread of infectious diseases.”

THE LARGER CONTEXT

Expo 2020 Dubai – the first World Expo to be held in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia regions – was initially scheduled to take place last year, but was postponed for 12 months due to the pandemic. Launching on 1 October 2021, it is now on track to run for six months until 31 March 2022.

The total number of visitors to Expo 2020 Dubai are expected to reach one million “within days”, reports the UAE daily, The National.

As explained by the DoH, the Expo 2020 Model creates simulation scenarios which allows authorities to decide if or when stricter precautionary measures should be implemented. The platform reportedly does this by combining the expected number of visitors – as well as which country they are travelling from – with its existing knowledge database of COVID-19 disease dynamics, which includes factors such as rates of transmission and risk of infection.

“The tool provides a dedicated working model based on key epidemiological data and information developed over the last 20 months by teams in Abu Dhabi, drawing on leading local and global expertise,” the DoH added. “Results are presented through an interactive dashboard that allows the end-user to change key parameters and observe the real-time impact of the pandemic.”

The Expo 2020 Model was developed by three researchers from Khalifa University – Jorge Rodriguez, Mauricio Patton, and Juan Acuna – in collaboration with the DoH and the Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre (ADPHC).

The current tool is the third of its kind, with the first version developed in April 2020. A second version was developed in October 2020 to assist with the UAE’s vaccination drive.

WHY IT MATTERS

With the seven-day average of COVID-19 cases the lowest they have ever been in the UAE – at approximately 99 cases – authorities are keen to avoid infections rising once again as more public events take place in the country.

Various COVID-19 precautionary measures remain in place. For example, those entering the Expo 2020 Dubai site must either provide the results of a PCR test taken within 72 hours, or show proof of double vaccination.

ON THE RECORD

H.E. Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director General at Expo 2020 Dubai said: “The health and safety of all visitors, participants and staff is Expo’s number one priority. The pandemic has put this commitment even more sharply into focus, and we have worked tirelessly across the organisation to ensure we follow the latest guidance and collaborate closely with local and international authorities, including the UAE’s world-class health authorities.

“The DoH’s pioneering epidemiological modelling tool will be an invaluable resource to help continue Expo 2020 Dubai’s mission to safeguard the wellbeing of every person who visits our exceptional exhibition, and we will continue to monitor and adjust our measures as necessary.”

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By seohan