Real-time tracking of a pandemic, as data accumulate over time, is an essential component of a public health response to a new outbreak. A team of statistical modellers at the Medical Research Council Biostatistics Unit regularly nowcast and forecast COVID-19 infections and deaths. This information feeds directly to SAGE sub-group, Scientific Pandemic Influenza sub-group on Modelling (SPI-M) and to regional Public Health England (PHE) teams.

The work uses a statistical programming model called a transmission model (Birrell et al. 2020), data on daily COVID-19 confirmed deaths from PHE (by NHS region and age group), and published information on the risk of dying and the time from infection to death, to reconstruct the number of new COVID-19 infections over time; estimate a measure of ongoing transmission (R); and predict the number of new COVID-19 deaths in different regions and age groups.

Anticipated impacts

The findings are helping to inform official PHE COVID-19 pandemic assessment; SAGE consensus through SPI-M; local authority planning (disseminated via a PowerBI dashboard); and the Joint Biosecurity Centre.  

For more information about this project and links to project reports, see the MRC Biostatistics Unit website.


Medical Research Council and Public Health England.

Lead researcher