Led by ADR Wales’ Wellbeing academic lead, Professor Ronan Lyons, ‘Controlling Covid19 through enhanced population surveillance and intervention’ (Con COV), will run for 12 months and will provide a platform for research to inform evidence-based strategies to control the virus, safeguard the general population and help bring the UK out of lockdown.

Based within Population Data Science at Swansea University, Con COV is made up of a specialist research team with representatives from Welsh Government, Public Health Wales, academia and the public. They have come together to develop the project, which will rapidly analyse data from numerous sectors including the NHS, social care and education.

The team includes ADR Wales academics Professor Sinead Brophy, Dr Richard Fry, Ashley Akbari and Professor Chris Taylor.

The Con COV project will combine multiple sources of data, held in the Secure Anonymised Information Linkage (SAIL) Databank, to produce timely and responsive analyses to:

  • Ensure that policymakers and healthcare providers are kept informed and have a detailed insight into the evolving pandemic
  • Ensure that interventions which are being used to fight and control the virus are evaluated for their effectiveness
  • Keep the public informed. 

Building on existing data

Con COV will build on existing anonymised data of over 3.2 million people living in Wales that is held securely within SAIL to create an in-depth Covid-19 population study which will include additional data on vulnerable groups and settings, serology (blood tests that look for antibodies in blood) and viral genomics.

Informing evidence-based strategies

The project will provide regular reports to Welsh Government Covid19 Technical Advisory Group (TAG) and British Government’s SAGE and publish scientific papers. This will help inform evidence-based strategies to control the virus, safeguard the general population and inform decisions to bring the UK out of lockdown.

Public involvement is a key component of the work

Communicating with the public and particular interest groups is an important component of the project, with members of the public being listed as investigators.

Lynsey Cross, Public and Patient Engagement officer at HDRUK, Swansea University and Con COV investigator, said: “A key strength of the project is our engagement and involvement with the public. The Con COV team will include five members of the public who will be recruited to ensure that all activities and reports are acceptable and responsive to the needs of the general population and contribute to the public understanding of science.”

Professor Ronan Lyons, Principle Investigator for Con COV Project, and ADR Wales academic lead based at Population Data Science at Swansea University, said: “Covid-19 is a rapidly evolving, complex issue that requires near real-time data, analyses and multidisciplinary team science to devise, implement and evaluate a wide variety of interventions to minimise population harm. Our project will help address this and the questions related to disease transmission, prediction and modelling, focusing on priorities identified by the Welsh Government and SAGE.”

Rob Orford, Chief Scientific Adviser for Health, professional lead for healthcare scientists in NHS Wales and Head of Health Science and Allied Health Professions Division at Welsh Government, added: “SAIL have played a central role in the national response to Covid-19, providing technical expertise and analytical capability in the use of anonymous linked data relevant to both the direct and indirect effects of the epidemic on people and services in Wales. This continues to help us provide answers to key questions informing policy development. SAIL acts as an exemplar of the power of using anonymous linked data to generate new knowledge on previously inaccessible questions, helping to save lives, reduce harm and protect the NHS.” 

The call is supported by the UK Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), the Medical Research Council (MRC) and UKRI. 

To find out more about the Population Data Science Research Response to Covid-19, please visit the website.