How Can Simulation Modelling Help Reduce the Impact Of COVID-19

By Dr Kathy Kotiadis

Dr Kathy Kotiadis, Reader in Operational Research at Kent Business School explains how simulation modelling may be the key to solving future Covid-19 problems.

‘Virtual environments developed by computer simulation modellers may hold the key to solving many of the Covid-19 problems emerging over the next few months and years. With lockdown in place and newfound time on our hands, many of us have immersed ourselves in virtual environments for entertainment. These virtual environments mimic imaginary and real situations.

‘The possibility of a pandemic was one such imaginary situation for many this time last year. This is now a reality and one that we expect to be dealing with for further months, if not years. Modellers, however, have developed computer simulations, via inputting of available data, to explore pandemics’ possibilities and consequences and these have been used by affected countries to make crucial operational decisions.

‘These computer simulation models often involve animation similar to the computer games many of us have experienced. Decision-makers, with the support of modellers, can engage with these models and consider their decisions. For example, some of these models can answer questions for Covid-19 decisions such as: “How many beds, NHS staff and PPE do we need in a specific area?”. Using the data provided to it, the simulation will then run a virtual scenario which can be observed by decision-makers who will make judgements according to the simulation’s outcomes.

‘The benefit of these computer models is that you can explore endless potential scenarios and find solutions in the safety of a virtual world, entirely away from harm. Experts can explore how to best utilise vital and scarce equipment such as ventilators and the impact of an increase in their demand.

‘My latest paper, published in the Journal of Simulation, identifies challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and discusses how simulation modelling could help to support decision-makers in making the most informed decisions. The article explains that preparing for future pandemics will require virtual Bletchley Park environments and increased capacity in modellers. Universities will play their part in creating these.’

Find the full paper and explanation online

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