A new study looking at the risk factors for coronavirus based on location has indicated that a quarter of all constituencies in Britain could have avoided lockdown and kept their economies alive during the pandemic.
Experts at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) gathered data for six characteristics that outline the risk in each of the 632 parliamentary constituencies – including vulnerability, population density, commuter mobility, school mobility, people per house, and economic output.
Using publicly available information from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the researchers ran the numbers through an artificial intelligence data analytics model to determine which of the 632 constituencies were deemed ‘hotspots’ for coronavirus, and which could be considered as lower risk.
They found 25% of the constituencies could be deemed as lower risk, suggesting that these areas could have benefitted from alternative measures to a lockdown, including the use of protective cordons to prevent inbound infection.
“While much has been done on monitoring the effectiveness of the lockdown and predicting infection and mortality rates from COVID-19, very little is publicly available on the modelling of alternative measures,” said Dr Raymond Moodley, a visiting researcher at DMU’s Institute of Artificial Intelligence, who is working on the project alongside Professor Francisco Chiclana, Dr Mario Gongora, and Dr Fabio Caraffini.
“By cordoning off lower-risk constituencies, we could have allowed more than 25% of the population to move more freely within their respective regions, which would also have driven almost a quarter of Britain’s economic output,” explained Dr Caraffini.
Comparative tests show that using the proposed containment strategy and model, it is possible to reduce the peak infection rate, whilst keep several regions (up to 25%) economically active within protective cordons.
Some of the areas identified as suitable for alternative measures to lockdown include Huntingdon, Bath, Brighton Pavilion, Halifax, Lincoln, Milton Keynes, West Aberdeenshire, and Inverness.
By contrast, hot spot areas include all London boroughs (across Greater London and Central London), as well as areas in and around major cities such as Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle and Leeds.
“Our strategy offers a solution for managing localised outbreaks while allowing businesses and schools to remain open and the economy to keep moving,” said Dr Gongora. “The risk factors we used are there to evaluate the potential for a constituency to either be locked down or cordoned off during a pandemic.”
As a model for managing future infections or a second wave of COVID-19, the researchers have shared their findings with the Parliament’s Knowledge Exchange Unit.
Professor Chiclana said: “This pandemic containment strategy combines selective lockdowns and protective cordons to prevent diseases from spreading rapidly whilst allowing local communities to conduct ‘business as usual’.
“We have developed the strategy using a flexible data analytics model that can facilitate easy decision making – the Government can adjust the characteristics and use their own data to suit their requirements and use our model to identify the risk factors in each constituency.”