Category Archives: Covid-19

With the coming of the Covid-19 pandemic, we looked for a flexible and extensible platform for the integration, exploration and prediction of the pandemic against arbitrary data sources. So we’ve pivoted our environmental analytic work to Covid-19. This is about what we’ve discovered along the way.

Waiting for the Fat Lady

The UK government has just announced that it isn’t going to make a decision on further relaxing Covid-19 restrictions for another two weeks, just as many people were, quite reasonably hoping that the fat lady was, if not in full song, at least warming up for her aria.

Flippancy aside, let’s be clear: delaying a decision like that is utter nonsense, at multiple levels: whether it’s driven by the use of lagging data, the continuing failure to adopt and use effective forecasting (ours or anyone else's), the pursuit of political dogma, or any combination of these, they're once again delaying decision making until it's too late.

Worse, they seem to be relying on the success of the vaccination program to try to pull a largely fictional rabbit out of their hat - the hat that comes with a large label saying, "Wishful Thinking". But now for the data and analysis… Continue reading Waiting for the Fat Lady

Scotland Rising

So, Scotland is on the rise again. Unfortunately, this is in respect of Covid-19: of the four UK nations, it currently has the highest R Number (1.25 as of the 19th May), versus Northern Ireland's 1.05, England's 1.02 and Wales's 1.04. The UK as a whole is sitting at 1.05.

2021-05-21 Scotl<script srcset=
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We are however still faced with the situation of governments (in this case, the Scottish Government) making decisions late, and based on data that's a week or more old, and not apparently using any form of validated forecasting to inform timely decision making.

In case you're new to our blog, we've developed a Covid-19 targeted version of our emergent forecasting system and, in this case,  have been forecasting the rise in cases on all but four days since the beginning of May.

Disclaimer: we're not calling out the Scottish Government here over the governments of other parts of the UK: it's just that this is our patch and it's easier to compare the 32 Scottish Local Authorities than the 214 for the whole UK. In our more cynical moments, we think about creating a 'Political Wishful Thinking vs Actual Data' index, but it's a league table that would probably show little variation over time. Continue reading Scotland Rising

Early Warning Onwards

The UK government stated yesterday (13 May) that rising case numbers in the Bolton area were a cause for concern, and that very many of these cases were of the so-called ‘Indian’ variant (B.1.617.2 being the designated variant of concern, with B.1.617.1 and B.1.617.3 under investigation). Here, raw data for case numbers has been available for weeks, with  organisations such as the Sanger Institute also providing a very informative breakdown by sequenced  variants.

Our analytics platform had identified Bolton and other areas as potential concerns more than two weeks ago and had flagged a correlation between these hot spots and the ethnic balance of the local population, such that, even in the absence of cross-border travel data, of the emerging variants or the situation in India, we were able to provide early warning of emerging problems.

Which very much begs the question as to why the UK government only raised this yesterday, and why travel restrictions from India were only imposed long after the pandemic reached critical mass there. Continue reading Early Warning Onwards

The Last Unknown?

A remaining big unknown in the pandemic is not whether vaccines reduce serious symptoms, hospital admissions and deaths – they do – but whether and to what degree vaccines reduce the ability of those vaccinated to infect others, whilst not being symptomatic themselves. As we've noted before, initial data on post-vaccination infectivity was somewhat contradictory, so we don't yet build the impact of vaccination on infectivity into our forecasting.

Continue reading The Last Unknown?

Late to the Party. Again.

SAGE announced today that England's R number has risen across to between 0.8 and 1. They update their pronouncements once a week, based on their modelling from data that's even further behind.

We take a different approach: we use emergent and inferential analysis to generate R number calculations and 28-day forecasts, on a daily basis, for every local authority in the UK.

We can say that England, as of today, is at an R number of around 0.92, up from a low of 0.80 on 19 April. Our forecasting suggests that it's going to go over 1.0 from tomorrow, reaching roughly 1.3 by the end of the month, with England leading the way, followed by Wales and Northern Ireland, with Scotland doing rather better, for the moment at least.

2021-04-23 R Number and forecast for England

Continue reading Late to the Party. Again.

The (Long and Winding) Road to Normal

We all want a normal life. And politicians feel the pressure from their parties and constituents to restore normality as rapidly as possible. Unfortunately, there's a dissonance between their reluctance to then take needful and decisive action at the earliest possible opportunity and the long-term consequences from the pandemic, where a tendency to treat the pandemic as transactional – something you can bargain with – has driven a patchwork, limited and often counterproductive response to the pandemic. Continue reading The (Long and Winding) Road to Normal

Intelligent Reality at EIE2021

We are pleased to announced that our new company, Intelligent Reality, has been accepted into EIE’s 2021 cohort, which showcases the most innovative, data-driven tech companies from Scotland, the UK and beyond. EIE's (Engage, Invest, Exploit) annual conference features the the most promising high-growth companies who are seeking funding, from seed to series A.

Over the last 18 months we have successfully developed both our generic platform and environmental and geospatial applications, with an SBRI-funded R&D programme for Scottish Natural Heritage (now NatureScot) and, latterly, with three rounds of funding from InnovateUK. These have led to the successful development of inferential tools for exploratory, analytic and predictive modelling of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as enhancing our core platform.

We have not only developed our analytic and predictive pipeline, but have further developed our relationship with udu, the revolutionary, discovery-based data intelligence platform, itself co-founded by Two Worlds.

With academic and industrial partners, we have also explored real time applications in precision agriculture and pollution monitoring.


Intelligent Reality,  with staff in Scotland and Germany, has been formed to exploit the successful outcomes of Two Worlds' incubation of its adaptive, self-organising approach to data analytics, providing insight and predictive intelligence for real world applications in dynamic environments.

EIE, which is run by the Bayes Centre at Edinburgh University in partnership with the DDI (Data-Driven Innovation) initiative, is a year-round programme highlighted by a day of pitching to investors from across the globe. EIE21 takes place on 10 June.

Proving a Point?

There’s been a lot of covoptimism this past week, from assorted government spokesfolks, including from people who do know what they’re talking about – a prime example being Prof. Neil Ferguson of Imperial. The theme here is that cases, case rates and the R number have been falling strongly and appear to be continuing to do so.

That’s true, to a point. But our modelling suggests that the immediate future is less rosy.

It's not about the data – we use the same published sources as the government, albeit that they've got access to more sources than we do – it's more about what you do with it. 

Continue reading Proving a Point?

Building a Better Crystal Ball

Another Friday update: we’re well into our private Beta of our predictive analytics and what-if? modelling system for Covid-19 analytics.

So what is it telling us today?

As of 3rd February our projections are (within their confidence limits, which of course become broader the further out we look, even if the central projection is tracking the reality curve well), that the R number bottoms out about now for the UK as a whole, with case numbers continuing to fall until around the 9th, by which time R number is back to .92 and, by the 13th, it's more likely to be above 1 again, mostly driven by the SE (Essex particularly) and Merseyside (see header picture).

Continue reading Building a Better Crystal Ball

Lagging Decisions, Big Consequences?

On Friday 29th January, the Scottish Government announced that Na h-Eileanan Siar (the Western Isles) is being put into Level 4 lockdown, following a surge of new cases.

On the basis of the data available to us and our modelling approach, we're not convinced about this decision: it appears to have be made on the basis of out-of-date analysis in an area which turned the corner on this outbreak some time ago.

Our emergent analytics, which generate fresh outlooks every day, suggest that the peak of the outbreak here was passed on 19th January and that it has declined, on multiple metrics, since then.

Continue reading Lagging Decisions, Big Consequences?