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Health Emergency Response in Interconnected Systems

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - HERoS (Health Emergency Response in Interconnected Systems)

Reporting period: 2020-04-01 to 2021-03-31

The overall objective of HERoS is to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the response to the COVID-19 outbreak. HERoS provides policies and guidelines for improved crisis governance, with a core focus on responders to public health emergencies, and their needs to make informed decisions.

HERoS' objectives are to
- extract, understand and model different co-ordination structures and governance arrangements, determine bottlenecks and develop policies and procedures for efficient information sharing across countries and hierarchical levels,
- improve the predictions of the spread by understanding and modelling the impact of local behaviour on the spread of the disease and provide policy advice that considers deep uncertainty,
- improve the management of medical supply chains,
- reduce the impacts of cascading effects across globalised supply chains,
- develop a new method to retrieve actionable information from social media and detect rumours and misinformation early, and to
- develop training modules for epidemics response and disseminate project results to build up a network of early adopters.

HERoS consists of three phases:
1. "Rapid Response" (M1-M6) focuses on crucial aspects of pandemic response. It includes an analysis of governance arrangements in the ongoing COVID-19 response in situ, local behavioural epi-spread models, a gap analysis to secure medical supplies, and COVID-19 misinformation spread analysis.
2. "Evaluation, research & innovation" (M7-30) focuses on lessons learned, changing workflows and methods, fine-tuned behavioural epidemiological models, secure deliveries, and explainability methods on COVID-19 misinformation.
3. "Training and dissemination" combines lessons learned across different aspects of the project, and develops training modules.
During the first year of the project, HERoS has completed the Rapid Response phase including all its foreseen deliverables and workshops, and has moved on to the "Evaluation, research & innovation" phase.

WP1 ("Governance") completed the first deliverable (D1.1) on Recommendations for governance and policies in the COVID-19 response. D1.1 utilizes policy analysis, discourse analysis and expert interviews, to unravel the social and human aspects of decision-making practices, collective sensemaking and coordination. It includes a case study on citizen/bottom-up processes in the first wave of the crisis.
For the next phase, three lines of research have been defined by as: 1) vaccination as the way out of this crisis; 2) COVID-19 policy decision-making and the role of science/experts; 3) A critical analysis of the vulnerability paradox in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic: nursing homes and secondary schools. In addition, end users' deployment reports are analysed for lessons learned and best practices.

WP2 ("Behavioural models in epidemics") has laid the foundations for HERoS' epidemiological and behavioural modeling. The two first deliverables (D2.1 Recommendations for local Covid-19 response and D2.2: Recommendations for public health providers) were part of the rapid response phase. D2.1 started at the city scale with a focus on identifying, preventing, and mitigating urban hotspots, resulting in a first agent-based model for insights into epi-spread dynamics and policy impacts in two cities during the first wave of the pandemic. D2.2 analysed how health care system features, country characteristics, and COVID-19 non-pharmaceutical interventions affected the spread, and how health care systems responded across Europe. Its five focus areas are 1) statistical model for the advance of COVID-19, 2) preparedness assessment, 3) analysis of testing, 4) analysis of hospital intensive care units, and 5) analysis of the behaviour of healthcare professionals. In addition, this has led to an ICU capacity visualisation tool at
Next, a coupled model will allow to consider specifics of urban population, local economy and public services to determine resulting behavioural patterns. This facilitates studying the interaction of urban areas with their environments, the impacts of vaccination, and of variants of concern as major drivers of uncertainty. The beta version of the dashboard is available at

WP3 ("Supply chain management") has identified gaps, and compiled recommendations for securing medical supplies for the COVID-19 response. D3.1 focused on shortages and disruptions in medical supply chains in the first wave of the COVID-19 response, in particular on materials needed for patient care, personal protective equipment for health care staff, and materials for diagnostics and testing. Since the introduction of COVID-19 vaccines, WP3 is considering vaccine-relevant medical supply chains, resulting in a fact sheet for temperature control in vaccine supply chains and vaccine distribution and administration. The framework developed in D3.1 is being further developed to assess the economic impact of such supply chain disruptions.
Data has been collected, and protocols developed for long range flights of secure drone deliveries to quarantine zones. Next, workflows are developed, including temperature control considerations for vaccine deliveries.

WP4 ("Social media analytics") has focused on tracking Covid-19 misinformation content and spread on social media using legitimate assessments from fact-checkers. To this end, we produced a detailed analysis of the spread of thousands of COVID-19 false claims and their corrective fact-checks on hundreds of thousands of Tweets. The analysis produced one of the first set of insights into the impact of fact-checks on the circulation of misinformation, and how this is influenced by the topic of the claims and by the gender of the users. First results were reported in D4.1.
WP4 has also produced a COVID-19 Fact-Check Observatory ( and is developing a Twitter bot to bring fact-checks to Twitter users who happen to share a false claim related to COVID-19. Additionally, we are preparing a survey to gather information on the type of help requests that aid organization receive from their locals, which will help us in designing automated methods for classifying these requests.
The Rapid Response phase of the HERoS project was designed to maximise impact through its end users. A joint webinar was organised to summarise all results and policy recommendations from the Rapid Response phase, and has impacted on the EU’s decision to look at ICU capacities across EU borders.

HERoS will generate a multi-layered governance framework for the analysis of governance mechanisms, decision-making processes and sensemaking processes, to ensure the development of robust policies for combatting epidemic outbreaks. An agent-based model is developed to consider the impact of local population structures and behaviour on epi-spread. This is coupled with a network model based on system dynamics, to assess the spread across globalised networks. HERoS analyses medical supply chains for supporting pandemic response by improving the security of supply of critical items. HERoS also develops of tools to track Covid-19 misinformation content and spread on social media using legitimate assessments from fact-checkers. First training modules have been developed already; more trainings and conferences are organised towards the end of the project.
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HERoS work packages and their interrelation