Covid-19: Researchers design innovative solutions to tackle virus

Abu Dhabi - Four projects initiated by different teams at New York University Abu Dhabi.

By Ashwani Kumar

Published: Sat 15 May 2021, 11:47 PM

Last updated: Sun 16 May 2021, 6:06 AM

A host of innovative solutions are being put on the table by researchers and experts from the Center for Interacting Urban Networks (CITIES) at New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) to help the government and communities combat the Covid pandemic.

Monica Menendez, director and lead principal investigator, CIT- IES at NYUAD, told Khaleej Times about four projects initiated by different teams at NYUAD, including one led by her.


Azza Abouzied, associate professor of computer science and CIT- IES co-principal investigator, along with the research team have developed EpiPolicy – a novel epidemic-control policy planning and optimisation tool. The team has constructed a model based on estimates of parameters influencing the spread of Covid-19 in the UAE.

They evaluated several locally-applied interventions and how wearing masks and vaccination drives, shutting of schools and malls, could have a social and economic cost.

“EpiPolicy is an online platform, which uses machine learn- ing algorithms to run a million of scenarios in an efficient way. Stakeholders can look at the economic and social cost of implementing different interventions. This tool can curb any sort of epidemic. It gives potential outcomes of each decision by entering data specific to the city and the area,” Menendez said.

Blood supply optimisation

Ali Diabat, professor of civil and urban engineering, and CIT- IES investigator, has been working with his team on a blood supply chain optimisation solution through a mathematical model that maintains a balance between shortages and waste for the blood supply chain.

“The idea is to design a robust and resilient supply chain system by looking at algorithms to optimise the amount of collected blood, ideal inventory levels, reasonable waste levels and transfusion decisions,” Menendez said.

Automated modular vehicles

Covid-19 situation and last year’s devastating Beirut explosion gave Menendez an idea of alternative modes of emergency medical services like automated modular vehicles, i.e., to combine two units — medical support and life support — into a single vehicle. It is similar to the autonomous pods unveiled in Dubai.

“By coupling, we will have two types of vehicles in the system. For a life-threatening emergency, you can dispatch the first unit, and the second unit can be specialised one for transportation. By increasing your fleet size, you can reduce the crucial response time,” said Menendez, who is also the associate professor of civil and urban engineering.

Covid and the community

The fourth research work by a team led by Kinga Makovi, assistant professor of social research and public policy, CITIES co-principal investigator, found that a person’s adherence to Covid-19 norms is influenced by their neighbours’ choices. The research compared the mobility network of 2019 and 2020 in 25 largest cities in the US, and later carried out a survey in Abu Dhabi and Dubai too.

“They looked at behavioural changes during Covid-19. They found out that if you see and believe that your neighbours are very compliant with health guidelines and regulations, you tend to be more compliant even when you are travelling out of your neighbourhood,” said Menendez.

The study helps to understand the behaviours and patterns of compliance rate with local guide- lines in a community.

Alamy photo used for illustrative purpose
Alamy photo used for illustrative purpose

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