The maths of COVID-19

Share this page

Maths plays an essential role in fighting COVID-19, which is why the pandemic has featured a lot on Plus. Here is all our coverage at a glance. This page will be continually updated with new content.

Reducing NHS waiting lists in the wake of COVID — A unique workshop has brought together mathematicians and clinicians to see how huge NHS backlogs can best be cleared.

Can game theory help to vaccinate the world? — Game theory suggests that sharing vaccine doses might give a selfish, as well as moral, advantage.

Maths helps curb COVID-19 in schools — UK Schools have received more than 300,000 CO2 monitors as part of a government initiative that has received significant input from mathematicians.

Understanding waning immunity — Natural and vaccine induced immunity appear to wane for COVID-19, so what can we expect from the future? Here's a toy model that gives us some clues.

Why the generation time of COVID-19 is important — To calculate the famous R number you need to know how long it takes for one person to infect another.

Understanding the generation time for COVID-19 — An interdisciplinary workshop at the Newton Gateway to Mathematics explored how to understand the time between infections.

How to work out doubling time — As Omicron presents us with rapid doubling times, we explore how to work out the doubling time of a disease from its growth rate.

Pandemics and psychology — Human behaviour is complex and fickle. So how can you capture it in epidemiological models?

Reckoning with R — Should we again reduce our social contacts? Is vaccinating 12-to-15-year-olds effective? What about boosters? The ready reckoner helps provide some answers.

Winter is coming: Where are we going? — What can we expect from the pandemic this autumn and winter? The so-called Warwick model explores some scenarios.

Keeping people safe at large events — How can sporting events, concerts, or festivals be kept safe in the face of rising COVID-19 infections?

COVID-19 and universities: What do we know? — What will uni be like this tear? To find out we first need to understand what happened last year. A recent study has done just that, providing us with vital clues.

Going with the flow: Are lateral flow tests useful? — Lateral flow tests have become a common feature in our lives. What impact can they have on managing COVID-19?

The Delta variant: What do we know? — As the Delta variant is worrying the UK, researchers from the JUNIPER consortium have published all they know about it.

A breath of fresh air — There'd be a scandal if drinking water spread disease or building materials caused cancer. Could COVID-19 change our expectations for clear air indoors in a similar way?

Will the virus escape the vaccines? — Can the virus that causes COVID-19 mutate into a vaccine-resistant strain? And if yes, what would this mean for our vaccination strategy?

Keeping up with COVID-19 — Never before have people had to work out the incidence of a disease in the middle of pandemic in real time. The team behind the ONS COVID-19 Infection Survey have developed a way to do just that.

Vaccination: Where do we stand and where are we going? — Where have the COVID-19 vaccines got us so far and where we are likely to be when the rollout is complete?

Reducing NHS waiting lists in times of COVID — Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for men in the UK and second most for women. The backlog in NHS waiting lists caused by COVID poses a huge challenge in this context. In this podcast we talk to a clinician and mathematician to see how maths can help.

Testing testing in schools — What's the safest way to reopen schools? And can testing make things better for students and the community?

R's not all you need — When it comes to loosening COVID restrictions all eyes are usually on R, but it's also important to take account of prevalence.

On the mathematical frontline: Julia Gog —What's it like advising government on the maths behind COVID-19? Find out with epidemiologist Julia Gog in this new podcast series.

Careful with your Christmas b(a)ubbles —Modelling shows that your choice of how many households you bubble with this Christmas can make a real difference to the spread COVID-19.

The COVID-19 vaccines: Your questions answered — Are they safe? Are they effective? Will they stop the pandemic? Find out with our FAQ informed by experts.

What's the price for relaxing the rules? — After weeks of tight restrictions we are all longing to go into a lower tier, but this can come at a high price later on.

How do you calculate herd immunity?Plus editor Rachel Thomas talks about herd immunity on the Guardian Science Weekly podcast.

Giving numbers meaning — Our favourite communicator of risk talks about the statistics of COVID-19, the quality of government briefings, and how to counter misinformation.

Clearing the air: Making indoor spaces COVID safe — New research shows that ventilation is crucial and that masks are effective.

Going back to uni during a pandemic — What can maths tell us about how to make universities safe from COVID-19?

Unlocking the workforce — How can we get back to work safely in the face of a lingering pandemic? Mathematicians have issued some guidelines for policy makers and employers.

The growth rate of COVID-19 — We all now know about R, the reproduction number of a disease. But sometimes it can be good to consider another number: the growth rate of an epidemic.

Compound infections — Why does the number e appear in models of exponential growth, including epidemiological models?

The problem with combining R ratios — We explore why you need to be extremely careful when combining the reproduction ratios of a disease in different settings, such as hospitals and the community.

Maths in a minute: R0 and herd immunity — What is herd immunity and how does it relate to the basic reproduction number of a disease?

The virus podcast — In this podcast we explore the famous curve, talk about how to communicate science in a crisis, and explain the maths of herd immunity in one minute.

How can maths fight a pandemic? — How do mathematical models of COVID-19 work and should we believe them? We talk to Julia Gog, an epidemiologist who has been working flat out to inform the government, to find out more.

A call to action on COVID-19 — An urgent call has gone out to the scientific modelling community to help fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Two Cambridge mathematicians are helping to lead the charge.

Finding a way out of lockdown — Mathematical models can help the nation return to (some sort of) normality.

Social distancing: How close is safe? — Mathematicians are investigating how we can keep safe as we emerge from lockdown, by seeing how far virus-carrying droplets can fly in different environments — from buses to supermarkets.

Artificial intelligence takes on COVID-19 — Mathematicians are helping to develop an AI tool to help with diagnosing COVID-19 and making prognoses for infected patients.

Communicating the coronavirus crisis — David Spiegelhalter, expert in risk and evidence communication, tells us how well the UK government has done so far communicating about Covid-19.

Taking the pandemic temperature — How do people in different countries feel about the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures taken by their governments?

Squashing the curve? — A study published in March by researchers from Imperial College suggested that measures against COVID-19 needed to be much more drastic than was previously hoped.

Maths in a minute: Social distancing — How should people arrange themselves for maximal socialising at a safe distance?

How to resolve the Premier League — As football leagues around the world have been suspended due to COVID-19, how should the final rankings of teams be decided? Here is a suggestion.

Was points per game fair? — With the Premier League finished for this year we check if the solution suggested in the previous article, and other ways the League could have been decided without playing the remaining matches, would have been fair.

Read more about...