Department of Health – Abu Dhabi (DoH), the regulator of the healthcare sector in the emirate, announced today the development and deployment of a pioneering epidemiological modelling tool to be used during Expo 2020 Dubai. The announcement was made during a ceremony held at Expo 2020, where the department gathered a number of strategic partners including Expo 2020, the Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre (ADPHC) and Khalifa University of Science and Technology (KU).

The agreement was signed by Jamal Mohammed Al Kaabi, Undersecretary of DoH, H.E. Matar Saeed Al Nuaimi, Director General of ADPHC, H.E. Najeeb Al-Ali, Executive Director, Expo 2020 Dubai and Dr. Arif Sultan Al Hammadi, Executive Vice President at the Khalifa University of Science Technology. The agreement was signed in the presence of H.E. Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director General, Expo 2020 Dubai and H.E. Abdullah bin Mohamed Al Hamed, Chairman of the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi (DoH).

Dubbed the 'Expo 2020 model', the epidemiological modelling tool was developed by researchers from Khalifa University in collaboration with DoH and ADPHC, to boost the visitors' safety at Expo 2020 Dubai; an international event that is expected to draw millions of visitors over the next six months.

The tool works by assessing simulation scenarios that combine the expected number of visitors with existing knowledge of COVID-19 disease dynamics. Through this, the tool provides a dedicated working model based on key epidemiological data and information developed over the last 20 months by teams in Abu Dhabi, drawing on leading local and global expertise.

This allows for health authorities to predict the projected impact on the healthcare sector, assess needed capacity in a timely manner and generate the best healthcare solutions for residents and visitors in the event of an increase in the number of cases. The analytical powerhouse used to develop this sophisticated tool has already proved successful, through its contribution to monitoring and decision making which led to Abu Dhabi being ranked as a leading city in response to Covid-19.

Her Excellency Reem Al Hashimy said: “The health and safety of all visitors, participants and staff is Expo's number one priority. The pandemic has put this commitment even more sharply into focus, and we have worked tirelessly across the organisation to ensure we follow the latest guidance and collaborate closely with local and international authorities, including the UAE's world-class health authorities.

Al Hashimy, added: “The Department of Health – Abu Dhabi's pioneering epidemiological modelling tool will be an invaluable resource to help continue Expo 2020 Dubai’s mission to safeguard the wellbeing of every person who visits our exceptional exhibition, and we will continue to monitor and adjust our measures as necessary.”

H.E. Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Hamed said: “We are incredibly proud to have forged this important partnership with Expo 2020 and Khalifa University. With the guidance and ongoing support of our wise leadership, Abu Dhabi has developed a distinguished model for the pandemic response and recovery. Moreover, the Emirate has been lauded for its readiness and response efforts amongst several of the world's cities.”

Al Hamed added: “Today, Abu Dhabi continues to bolster the UAE's efforts to ensure the health and safety of its citizens, residents and tourists alike by employing the latest advanced technologies. The development of this epidemiological modelling tool represents an incredible milestone, and it will undoubtedly contribute to delivering a safer and more successful Expo 2020 event. This collaboration highlights the importance of consolidating efforts and leveraging UAE's robust infrastructure to develop a solution that has the potential to improve disease management at many other large-scale events globally. A model of this kind serves not only to safeguard the health and safety of communities but also to enhance business continuity and minimise the impact of the spread of infectious diseases.”

HE Matar Al Nuaimi said: “We are delighted to observe this mutual agreement that aims to protect all community members with combined efforts from all parties. This distinctive tool represents a significant leap to address epidemics in the UAE.”

Al Nuaimi added: “We marked a global model in maintaining the health and safety of the community thanks to our wise leaders. This partnership is complementary to the Centre's efforts to achieve its vision towards a healthy and safe society in events such as Expo 2020.”

Dr. Arif Sultan Al Hammadi said: “We are proud to collaborate with key stakeholders and contribute to the success of Expo 2020 and providing an innovative epidemiological modelling tool for this prestigious event, based on the two previous models developed by our local researchers, that highlights Khalifa University's local research initiatives that make a global contribution. The collaboration also stands testimony to the academic-industry partnership that brings in the necessary expertise, facilitating innovative technology solutions, thus benefiting the community in general. We believe this new initiative will also lead to similar partnerships that will help in organising major international exhibitions, conferences and meetings.”

Abu Dhabi's robust advanced digital infrastructure provided a fertile ground for the tool's development and eventual application at Expo 2020 Dubai. Furthermore, the Expo 2020 model represents a bold collaboration between the government, industry and academia, bringing together competencies and expertise to enhance the UAE's pioneering pandemic response and recovery efforts. In line with Expo 2020 Dubai's theme of “Connecting minds, creating the future”, the model will pave the way for a new tool that can be used to manage health and safety at future large-scale events, both locally and internationally.

The researchers who developed the tool are Dr. Jorge Rodriguez Associate Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering, Dr. Mauricio Patton, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Dr. Juan Acuna, Professor and Head of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at Khalifa University. The tool relied on two previous iterations, the first of which was developed in April 2020. The second version was developed in October 2020 to help launch the vaccination campaign in the UAE.

The Expo 2020 model combines several key inputs such as the number of visitors from countries around the world and several age-disaggregated epidemiological parameters including rates of transmission and risk of infection among others.

Results are presented through an interactive dashboard that allows the end-user to change key parameters and observe the real-time impact of the pandemic. The modelling tool primarily focuses on providing an accurate comparison between different scenarios to equip decision-makers with the right information required to take action, with a secondary focus on predictive numbers.