The latest in NUS' COVID-19 research: Information & technology
As one of the world’s leading research-intensive universities, NUS is at the cutting edge of innovative solutions in different areas of the COVID-19 crisis.
NUS has been proactively participating in the fight against COVID-19 since the crisis first began.
The first article of this two-part series looked at NUS research ranging from rapid diagnostics to case connections and vaccine development. Now, this article sheds light on how NUS researchers are developing innovative ways to combat the crisis with information and technology solutions.
Modelling and Analytics
Epidemiology provides insights into the frequency, distribution, and causes of diseases in populations. This can contribute to the identification of appropriate targets for public health interventions and the evaluation of health promotion initiatives.
Associate Professor Alex Cook, Assistant Professor Hannah Clapham and their teams from the NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health are now using computer and mathematical models to analyse the status of public health with regard to COVID-19. The scope of the projects includes analysing the potential impact of workplace distancing, providing assistance on outbreak investigations, and assessing the impact on the transmissibility of the virus.
Measuring unintended healthcare consequences and costs
Cutting-edge research that aims to understand the impact of the new stepped-up hospital measures on both clinic and hospital routine functions is being carried out by a team led by Assistant Professor Wee Hwee Lin from the NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health. The researchers are particularly interested in patient outcomes as a result of delays or cancellations of follow-ups and procedures, and are examining how the displacement of routine care by COVID-19 increases avoidable morbidity and mortality.
Social and geospatial networks of migrant workers
To quell the spread of COVID-19, there is an urgent need to understand the social ties and travel patterns of non-work related and essential activities among migrant workers in Singapore during their time off work.
A study led by Assistant Professor Yi Huso and Associate Professor Jeremy Lim from the NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Heath utilised a quantitative-qualitative survey approach to examine the social geospatial networks of migrant workers in Singapore. Understanding the extent of interactions with fellow migrant workers from different dormitories will allow policymakers to put in the necessary planning to minimise further spread of COVID-19 by implementing effective social distancing outside dormitories.
Establishing minimum standards for COVID-resilient dormitories
Migrant worker dormitories worldwide are expected to conform to the standards set by the United Nations International Labour Organisation (UN ILO), however these standards are inadequate to protect against a highly infectious viral agent such as SARS-CoV-2. There is an urgent need to understand what should be the new minimum standards that minimises the risk of infection and enhances control of spread in the event of an outbreak in dormitories. At the same time, the new standards need to be operationally and economically realistic for dormitory operators.
Through a multi-disciplinary team involving NUS experts in economics, architecture design, public health, and workplace health and safety, this research aims to put forward recommendations for new standards in Singapore and to the UN ILO.
Rapid evidence synthesis
Since Singapore saw its first case of COVID-19, the NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health has been collating the information and producing the weekly COVID-19 Science Reports for researchers, policymakers and regional colleagues. The reports are based on searches of research databases, relevant journals, science reports and expert comments. They review the latest evidence and breakthroughs in clinical characteristics, diagnostics, therapeutics, vaccines, containment measures, lockdowns, exit strategies and scenarios. Produced by the School’s Public Health Translational Team, the reports have now been shared with academics and policymakers worldwide, and they are available here.
Combatting misinformation around COVID-19
COVID-19 has demonstrated the importance of responsible public discourse. Many false rumours that circulate on social media about the coronavirus incite fear and paranoia among the public. Fake news can even accelerate the spread of the coronavirus, by passing on bad advice that encourages risky behaviours or causes the public not to seek treatments.
The NUS Centre for Trusted Internet and Community is working to integrate social and behavioural science, digital technologies, data-driven approaches, and policy studies to detect, anticipate, and mitigate misinformation related to COVID-19. For example, one project uses natural language processing techniques to verify claims related to COVID-19 and to evaluate their credibility. The Centre also publishes commentaries and news reports on topics such as misinformation, human psychology, social resilience and implications for economy and global relations with regard to COVID-19.
The NUS Centre for Biomedical Ethics (CBmE), which is a part of the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, has written a series of commentaries on the ethical aspects of healthcare and resource allocation in the context of the current pandemic. CBmE has provided input, through these commentaries, to Working Groups convened by the Ministry of Health to propose guidelines on management and response.
To read the first article in this two-part series, click here.