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HUST's scientist builds model to track COVID-19 spread

LE Chi Ngoc, a leading mathematician at Hanoi University of Science and Technology (HUST), used statistical modeling to advise the Vietnamese government on how to halt the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

As soon as the first COVID-19 cases were detected, Vietnam established a rapid response team to manage the impact of the new pathogen and to mitigate the risks. LE Chi Ngoc volunteered to join the team and used his mathematical expertise to generate accurate insight into the progression of the pandemic. The mathematician has developed an epidemiological model that tracks the virus’ spread through live news and real-time data on confirmed coronavirus cases. 

The first version of the model was constructed and implemented in April 2020. Dr. LE then, with the help of a group of HUST students, was constantly testing and improving the model while he continued to add new data and apply algorithms to determine if he could make more accurate predictions.

“It took only a few days to build the first version of the model. I and my team since then have continuously tested, used different algorithms and applied math formulas so that the data and information could be processed more accurately,” LE said. 

Dr. Le Chi Ngoc, builder of the computational model to manage the impact of Covid-19 and to alleviate the risks (Photo by CCPR - HUST).

Since different places will hit their peak number of cases at different times, the model focuses on calculating disease progression to identify vulnerable and high-risk individuals who have close contact with confirmed cases, predicting whether they must undertake testing and government-run quarantine or self-isolation at home.  

Dr. LE also used machine learning on symptoms, demographics, morbidity, and mortality associated with the virus, lab test results as well as simulation models to predict patient data. This can actually help the government perform effective policy responses in the hotbeds of COVID-19 more quickly. 

Bac Giang, which is 60 km northeast of Hanoi, became an epicenter of a new outbreak of COVID-19, accounting for a third of the overall cases in the country in just three weeks from April 27. Based on the epidemiological model, health authorities rapidly decided to enact lockdown measures including a curfew, travel restrictions, and testing on a massive scale in the industrialized province that is home to production facilities of global tech firms.

Bui The Duy, Deputy Minister of Science and Technology, reports on new infected cases in Que Vo 1 Industrial Park, Bac Ninh to Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam, on 22 May, 2021 in the team’s workplace (Photo by Dinh Nam).

As of June 25, Vietnam has confirmed 14,323 COVID-19 infections. Most cases were in the business hub of Ho Chi Minh City and the northern province of Bac Giang. It has recorded 72 deaths due to the pandemic. 

Many scientists and technologists at HUST have been joining the Vietnamese government’s effort to combat the COVID-19 virus. LE Chi Ngoc is one of them. The mathematician said he has learnt how to balance between teaching at the university and handling the daunting tasks at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19. 

As striving to build and innovate the model, Dr. LE and his team have contributed to controlling the pandemic more effectively. To recognize the attempts at pandemic prevention and control, Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam presented the Prime Minister's Certificate of Merit to LE Chi Ngoc and members of the team.

“I volunteered to join the government’s rapid response team to be a part of the country’s effort to combat the coronavirus so that our students can soon return to full capacity in-person learning on campus,” he said. 

Reporting by Dieu Ngoc

Translating by Tran My Hanh