Northern Ireland was the first of the four nations to have a functioning Contact Tracing Service, with the early pilot program being run out of the Public Health Agency buildings in Belfast.
Since those very early stages, Ulster University has been providing support to analyse the data coming in through the service and help map clusters, link contacts and cases, and chart where and how the infection was spreading.
The Ulster initiative is led by Professor Walsh, assisted by Dr Sara-Jayne Thursby (Biomedical Sciences Research Institute, Coleraine) and Dr Ben Wingfield (School of Computing, Engineering & Intelligent Systems, Magee/ CPM, C-TRIC), working very closely with the clinical leads and health protection staff at the PHA. Together they have built an analytics platform which has been used to help inform decision-making, improve public health advice and address queries from the highest levels with regards to spread of the disease.
The Ulster team is providing on-going support and training for PHA staff in these advanced analytical methods to help build capacity to carry out the rapid analysis of large amounts of data being generated by viral testing platforms and the contact tracing system, which continues to be among the best-performing of the four nations.