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Conclusion to our COVID-19 course

Here we will review what has been done on the course over the last two weeks, and consider where to go next.
© The UNESCO UniTwin CS-DC and The Open University

Review of Week 1

Step 1.3 collected some of the vital statistics of COVID-19 while Step 1.4 discussed transmission. Step 1.5 discussed crises in healthcare systems. The Kermac-McKendrick SIR model was presented in Steps 1.6 and 1.7 as the basis for discussing herd immunity and flattening the curve in Step 1.8. Herd immunity is usually most relevant to policy in the context of vaccination. Steps 1.9 and 1.10 summarised the Imperial College report and its impact. Step 1.11 considered policy makers’ common claim that they are driven by science. Steps 1.12, 1.13, 1.4 and 1.15 considered prediction and forecasting in policy making, noting that some systems are inherently unpredictable but useful things can be known about their future behaviour. Complex Systems Science was presented as a way ahead to support policymakers.

Review of Week 2

Week 2 focussed on modelling. We began by investigating the SIR curves using a computer model. This was followed by experimenting with Agent Based Models. We considered modelling at micro, meso and macro scales. We experimented with time series models and fitting curves to data. You were challenged to become a policy maker in the Face Mask exercise. The most important message to come from the WHO is Test-Test-Test as an essential part of their test, follow and isolate policy. We used a computer model to investigate this policy. The models used on this course are very simple, and we considered how real world modelling is based on the same principles but goes much further .

It has been a great pleasure working with so many engaged and interesting participants on the course. We thank you for joining us and being such excellent company.

Good luck to everyone – Jeff and the Team.

Where next?

If you are interested in Covid-19 FutureLearn has other courses that you may want to join. These include

COVID-19: Tackling the Novel Coronavirus

What is COVID-19 and how might the outbreak affect you? Find out more about coronavirus and explore its worldwide implications.

COVID-19 Critical Care: Understanding and Application Learn the principles and practice of critical care to treat and care for critically ill patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Managing COVID-19 in General Practise Get practical advice and support around how to respond to the novel coronavirus pandemic as a front-line healthcare

COVID-19: Diagnostics and Testing Get the latest recommendations on COVID-19 diagnostics and testing, and how to improve testing capacity in low-income settings.

See also

COVID-19: The facts Find the answer to common questions and concerns around the outbreak of the coronavirus.

What’s going to happen next?

1s September 2020

In the UK and in many other countries there are huge pressure to move out of lockdown. It started in England on 4th July:

From 4 July the 2m (6ft) social distancing guidance changed in England. The prime minister said that where it is not possible to stay 2m apart, people should keep a distance of “one metre plus” – this means staying one metre apart, while observing precautions to reduce the risk of transmission
Restaurants, pubs and cafes in England will also be allowed to reopen. All hospitality indoors will be table service only, and contact between staff and customers will be limited. Customers will also have to give contact details when they enter a pub or restaurant.
In England, two households of any size will be able to meet indoors or outside. It will be possible to stay overnight.
Outdoors, people from multiple households can meet in groups of up to six – but two households can meet regardless of size.
More outdoor spaces will open if they can do so safely, including outdoor gyms and children’s playgrounds Hairdressers will be able to reopen, as long as they take precautions. Libraries, community centres, bingo halls, cinemas, museums and galleries will be able to open, along with funfairs and theme parks, amusement arcades, outdoor skating rinks, social clubs and model villages
Places of worship will be able to open for prayers and services, including weddings with up to 30 guests – subject to social distancing. Singing will not be permitted [1].
Some SAGE scientists have expressed reservations about the policy, e.g.
Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, admitted he is “worried” about a possible spike in infections ahead of the reopening of pubs, restaurants and hairdressers next month. He warned that there could be a “very nasty rebound” of coronavirus in the winter if the UK does not use the next few months “sensibly”. [2][3]
The BBC reported on 14th July 2020:
It will be compulsory to wear a face covering in shops in England from Friday 24 July. However, the rules won’t apply to shop workers, government minister George Eustice told the BBC. Those who fail to wear a mask will face a fine of up to £100. The rules will be enforced by the police, rather than shop workers. People also won’t be required to wear a covering in places where it’s not practical – such as in a pub, cafe or restaurant – according to Mr Eustice. Children under 11 and those with certain disabilities will be exempt. [4]
Face masks have been mandatory on public transport in England since 15th June. [5]
As we enter September, in the UK children are returning to school. Teachers and head teachers have worked very hard to make their schools safe since it is widely agreed that our children urgently need to get back to their lessons and interactions, e.g.

11s September 2020

In England we have new rules
From 14 September – when the new rules apply – it will be against the law to meet people you do not live with in a group larger than 6 (unless you are meeting as a household or support bubble). The police will have the powers to enforce these legal limits, including to issue fines (fixed penalty notice) of £100, doubling for further breaches up to a maximum of £3,200.

We will run the course for some months and during the next few weeks we will think about the questions

*will the Government’s lockdown policies work?

*what other policies could there be and what might be their outcomes?

  • how is COVID-19 likely to develop in the UK?
  • do infected people become immune or can they be reinfected?
  • will there be waves of infection over the next months?

We will use the models developed for this course and new versions for them as required. We will publish as much of this as we can within the course.

Hopefully some of you will want to stay with us to see how it develops. If so please come back to this page from time to time and we will list the steps that have new material. In this way you can be part of the evolving course community.

The next thing will be a new interactive agent-based simulation program to enable us to experiments with the possible outcome of policies coming out of lockdown.

The course will remain fully open to new participants for the foreseeable future.

To stay in contact with us after your access to the course expires please send us a contact email with the subject line “COVID-19 modelling policy course” to:

You do not need to enclose a message. We will get back to you within a few days.


[1] BBC, ‘Coronavirus lockdown: All you need to know about new measures’, 25th June 2020.

[2] Claire McKim, ‘Coronavirus SAGE experts warn UK could be headed for deadly second wave this winter’, EdinburghLive, 28th June 2020.

[3] Clare Wilson , Jessica Hamzelou , Adam Vaughan , Conrad Quilty-Harper, Layal Liverpool, ‘Covid-19 news: We still lack evidence on relaxing 2-metre rule’, New Scientists, 24th June 2020.

[4] Michelle Roberts, Coronavirus: What are the rules for face masks or face coverings?, BBC News online, 14 July 2020

[5] Department for Transport and The Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP, Face coverings to become mandatory on public transport: From 15 June, face coverings will be required while using public transport in England. Published 4 June 2020. []

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