SPECTRUM Newsletter | Issue 1 (August 2020)

While the SPECTRUM consortium has been working hard on COVID-19 projects over the past few months, we have been working on some behind the scenes activities to help bring the group together.

We thank you for your patience and hard work during this time!

We hope that these newsletters will bring the group closer, with the aim of sharing updates that may not be discussed in the regular SPECTRUM meetings. Please reach out to us if you have any suggestions, or any content you would like included. 


Let's Connect!

We are inviting all SPECTRUM CIs to nominate team members, students and collaborators who wish to be formally aligned with us, including to receive these updates and to join ongoing relating to SPECTRUM activities. We want to reiterate our collaborative approach and engagement with a wide array of experts, students and researchers. 

If you have anyone in mind, please contact Laura at laura.bannerman@unimelb.edu.au to add them to the group. 


In the Media

A number of SPECTRUM collaborators have featured in the media over the past few weeks. Jodie was popular over the past week - she was a guest on Q&A as well as interviewed by Radio National Breakfast, 7.30The Age, Sunrise and Today.

Freya and James also made appearances on ABC reports about record numbers of COVID-9 cases in Victoria and the use of masks. 

If you missed their appearances, you can find some links to their engagement here:


Nowcasting & Forecasting Update

David Price and Freya Shearer have shared an update on their most recent nowcasting and forecasting activities:

The national COVID-19 modelling consortium has been providing weekly epidemic forecasting reports to key national advisory committees (the Communicable Diseases Network of Australia and the Australian Health Principal Protection Committee) since early April. These reports focus on providing estimates of current and future epidemic activity of COVID-19 in Australia and estimates of changes in community adherence to physical distancing measures. We have also produced a number of publicly available reports, based on material from our weekly updates.

Our most recent public report, available here, is focused on the period from early June up to 1 July 2020. At this time, Victoria was the one state with a substantial number of active cases. As of 1 July, we estimated the effective reproduction number to be 1.3 [1.04, 1.7] for actives cases in Victoria (97% chance of exceeding 1 – the threshold value for control), indicative of a growing outbreak. However, we also estimated that the effective reproduction number had been steadily decreasing in Victoria over the preceding two weeks, suggesting that control was possible with continued enactment of response measures and community adherence. Finally, we performed a scenario forecast analysis to assess the potential impact of alternate scenarios on the Victorian outbreak.


Pacific Island Countries Project

Trish Campbell and Chris Baker have shared an update about their recent PIC COVID-19 project.

We worked with WPRO (WHO Western Pacific Regional Office) to produce worst case COVID-19 epidemic scenarios for eight countries in the Pacific, with a mix of urban and rural populations and differently structured health systems. One of the main aims was to estimate whether each country’s health system capacity is sufficient to cope with a widespread outbreak. There are two factors that set these countries apart from many other places that have had outbreaks: a large proportion of children in the population and very high rates of obesity. In our simulations, we were careful to outline the potential impacts of these two factors, as they make a big difference to transmission dynamics and health system requirements. Our approach was collaborative, and we made changes to our models and delivered updated reports through consultation with experts in-country.

The main team to produce reports was Eamon Conway, Trish Campbell, Jodie McVernon and Chris Baker, but Nic Geard, Rob Moss, Damien Brown, Teralynn Ludwick, Tiara Marthias and Eileen Phoenix Lam made important contributions in country-level research and in the modelling.


AuTuMN Activities

James Trauer has shared some information about AuTuMN's current activities.

The AuTuMN team have re-purposed our model of TB transmission to the COVID-19 response and have created an age-structured model that we have been using to support countries of the Asia-Pacific in collaboration with the WHO.

We have been working with the Malaysian Ministry of Health, through their health technology assessment division ("MaHTAS") and the Philippines Department of Health, through their Interagency Task Force for COVID-19 control and their "FASSSTER" modelling team.

The work has been challenging, due to the rapid changes in epidemiology that have been seen in these countries - with outbreaks rapidly escalating and declining at national level within the course of days.

Recently Malaysia has had considerable success in controlling the pandemic through a combination of effective responses, including Movement Control Orders, although modelling highlights the potential for epidemic rebound. The Philippines has experienced a heterogeneous response by Province, requiring us to adapt our model to sub-national analyses. The work continues and will undoubtedly throw further challenges over the coming months.

You can find more information about AuTuMN here:  


Preprints & Publications

Here are the most recent medRxiv preprints from our SPECTRUM researchers:

You can also find the most recent public report on the nowcasting work here:


Please reach out to us if you have any preprints, publications or reports to share. 


FFX Study

The COVID-19 First Few X (FFX) Household Transmission Project is underway in NSW, SA, WA, QLD and at the Royal Children's Hospital (RCH) in VIC with project support and coordination provided by the university of Melbourne and APPRISE CRE. The study is funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health.

Data collection in Australia commenced on the 6th April 2020, and to date, participants have been recruited in New South Wales, Western Australia, Queensland (now withdrawn due to low case numbers) and Victoria (Royal Children’s Hospital).

As of Friday 24th July, NSW had recruited 42 households, RCH has recruited 24 households (with more expected), and 4 households in WA have been recruited. Due to minimal case numbers in QLD and SA, no households have recruited at this stage.

Data is currently being analysed for the recruited households, and regular reports are being presented to CDNA. Although the project has seen some challenges with implementation, the project expects to shed light on household transmission of COVID-19 in Australia. 

For more information, please feel free to contact the team at: ffx-info@unimelb.edu.au  or visit the APPRISE FFX webpage below.



The SPECTRUM website is well underway, and is in the final stages with our developers. We hope to have a live website in the coming weeks.

When the website is made available to the public, we would appreciate your feedback so that website can grow along with the consortium. Watch this space!


Newsletter Content

We would love you to contribute to the newsletter. Do you have anything you would like to share with us?

Please email SPECTRUM Project Coordinator Laura at laura.bannerman@unimelb.edu.au with anything you would like to share.