SPECTRUM Newsletter | Issue 2 (September 2020)

It's already been a month since the last SPECTRUM newsletter! Time seems to be passing by so quickly, but our collaborators have continued working hard on various activities across different projects. 

As the newsletter continues to grow, we invite you again to share your stories and updates with us to share with the wider audience. Any update, big or small, is more than welcome!


Let's Connect!

We are still 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. Once confirmed, we will add their details to the SPECTRUM website. 

Additionally, if you know of anyone who may like to receive this newsletter, please reach out!

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 month (and very popular over the past week!).

Jodie McVernon spoke to Weekend Today about the impact of Stage 4 restrictions in Victoria, she was quoted in a story on ABC Online, and was recently interviewed in The Conversation, and has featured in articles across many major publications including the Australian Financial Review, The Age and Sky News, among others. 

James McCaw featured in various media releases over the past few weeks - here are some stories from The Age, ABC News and The Brisbane Times.

Cameron Zachreson featured in an article in The Age discussing mobility.

If you've featured in the media and want your story shared, please reach out to us!


Mobility Modelling Updates

Dr Cameron Zachreson shared some insights into mobility modelling and the use of social media data to measure the impact of physical distancing interventions. 

Physical distancing interventions have been an important component of Australia’s COVID-19 response by reducing mobility, contact and opportunities for transmission. Social media data allow us measure the impact of physical distancing interventions, providing feedback on population mobility in near-real time. We used mobility data provided by Facebook via their Data for Good program to assess mobility trends in Victoria, Australia between March and September 2020. The data shows geographic variation in population mobility behaviour, corresponding to both government restrictions and public perception of disease risk (Figure 1). Results of this analysis for Victoria, NSW, and Queensland have been incorporated into weekly reports the AHPPC.


Figure 1: Movement range measured for Victoria LGAs during the COVID-19 epidemic.

Facebook also provides origin-destination data allowing us to generate mobility-based estimates of the spatial distribution of COVID-19 transmission risk. We verified the method using data from the Cedar Meats outbreak in Victoria, the Crossroads hotel outbreak in New South Wales, and the second wave of community transmission in Victoria. These results have been released in pre-print form [1] and are currently in submission.

Ongoing investigations and projects include stratification of mobility responses to physical distancing orders by socioeconomic and labour classifiers in collaboration with the Melbourne School of Population& Global Health, and the generation of a dashboard application for spatial risk mapping in collaboration with colleagues in the Defense Science and Technology Group (DSTG).

[1] Zachreson C, Mitchell L, Lydeamore M, Rebuli N, Tomko M, Geard N. Risk mapping for COVID-19 outbreaks using mobility data. arXiv preprint arXiv:2008.06193. 2020 Aug 14.


New Zealand Updates

Professor Mick Roberts of Massey university in Auckland has provided some information about COVID-19 in New Zealand. 

In response to the initial epidemic, New Zealand went into lockdown on March 26. The restrictions were gradually eased from a month later, and apart from border closures life more-or-less returned to normal from June 9. The only recorded cases until the Auckland Cluster emerged on August 10 were in residents returning from overseas, all in managed isolation ‘at the border’. The earliest known case of the cluster worked at a cool store, other cases are largely household contacts and members of a church congregation, referred to as a sub-cluster. To date the Auckland Cluster comprises 161 cases, of which 100 are Pacifica and 34 are Māori. Further details can be found at [1]. Most of the modelling work in New Zealand has been carried out by Te Pūnaha Matatini [2].

To compare the effectiveness of response to Covid-19, I took case numbers of a few countries from the WHO [3], and scaled them by population. The results are below.

Key: USA, UK, Brazil, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand


Preprints & Publications

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

You can also find more snapshots of some of the work underway here:


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


FFX Study Updates

The COVID-19 First Few X (FFX) Household Transmission Project is continuing in NSW, SA, WA 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. VIC (RCH) and NSW are the only jurisdictions currently recruiting participants. 

The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) has performed almost 20,000 SARS-CoV-2 tests since March 12th. To date, 145 positive cases (101 children, 44 adults) have been identified. Of these, 30 families (111) participants have been recruited to the FFX project and a related detailed virology/immunology study “FFX+” which extends on the FFX components.

Recruitment in NSW is slower, as expected in the current circumstances, but still ongoing. 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. 

The FFX implementation team is working on ways to eventually transition the project into its research phase, which will hopefully shed more light on household transmission dynamics 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 LIVE! You can visit the website here:


Although the website is live, we still need to fill it with content - publications, news, collaborators - to bring it to life. Please share your feedback with us!


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.