Fast multi-shot epidemic interventions for post lockdown Covid-19 mitigation: Open-loop mitigation strategies

Robert Shorten (Principal Investigator), Imperial College 
Peter Y K Cheung (Co-Investigator), Imperial College 
Thomas Parisini (Co-Investigator), Imperial College 
Roderick Murray-Smith (Co-Investigator), University of Glasgow

EPSRC funded project,  EP/V018450/1. July-November 2020, with additional supporting funding from the EPSRC project: Closed-Loop Data Science for Complex, Computationally- and Data-Intensive Analytics

The objective of this project is to design and validate new exit-strategies from the current lockdown policy that actively suppress COVID-19, while allowing significant economic activity. Currently proposed exit-strategies suggest that intermittent lockdowns, in addition to contact tracing, masking, and other measures, may be necessary until an effective vaccine is found. Most of the these propose using data-driven feedback signals, such as hospital admissions, to initiate lockdowns, with a key design consideration being the capacity of the healthcare system. The difficulty with this approach is timing. Intervene too early, and one simply shifts the peak of ill people to a later date, whereas too late an intervention will not limit the peak of infections. The issue of timing is exacerbated by the virus having up to a 14-day incubation period and an initial exponential growth rate. Thus, the problem of observing the true state of the epidemic, in the face of exponential growth, makes the effectiveness of any data-driven feedback policy extremely sensitive to the timing of intervention. From a classical perspective, controlling locally unstable systems, as this is, with time-varying time-delays, is known to be a frontier problem in control engineering. Our suggestion is to circumvent this difficulty by developing periodic open-loop lockdown strategies over short timescales. Such policies will help suppressing the virus and allow predictable periodic periods of lockdown, thereby facilitating economic activity. The policies will be validated on advanced, realistic epidemiological mathematical models and data, and will be developed for national and international compartmental scenario


You can experiment with an online simulation of intermittent lockdown, and test the outcomes with different parameters.

Press and popular coverage of the research:

A popular description of the work is given in our opinion article The new science of lockdowns: Alternating intervals at home and at work provide the best means of balancing safety while preserving the economy, which appeared in Scientific American in June 2020. Mark Buchanan wrote an opinion piece on this in Nature Physics: Alternate Reality, Mark Buchanan, Nature Physics, p1170, vol 16, 2nd Dec 2020. Mark Buchanan also published a further article about this project in Bloomberg Opinion, Lockdowns Are Needed, So Let's Make Them Work, by Mark Buchanan, on the 8th December 2020.


  1. M. Bin, P. Cheung, E. Crisostomi, P. Ferraro, H. Lhachemi, R. Murray-Smith, C. Myant, T. Parisini, R. Shorten, S. Stein, L. Stone, Post-lockdown abatement of COVID-19 by fast periodic switching, PLoS Comput Biol 17(1): e1008604, January 2021.
  2. Thomas Parisini, Robert Shorten, Lewi Stone, The new science of lockdowns, Scientific American, June 5th, 2020.
  3. E. Dudkina, M. Bin, J. Breen, E. Crisostomi, P. Ferraro, S. Kirkland, J. Mareček, R. Murray-Smith, Th. Parisini, L. Stone, S. Yilmaz, R. Shorten, A comparison of centrality measures and their role in controlling the spread in epidemic networks, International Journal of Control, May, 2023.
  4. Bin, M., Crisostomi, E., Ferraro, P., Murray-Smith, R., Parisini, T., Shorten, R., & Stein, S., Hysteresis-based supervisory control with application to non-pharmaceutical containment of COVID-19. Annual reviews in control, 52, 508-522, 2021.
  5. S. Yilmaz, E. Dudkina, M. Bin, E. Crisostomi, P. Ferraro, R. Murray-Smith, T. Parisini, L. Stone, R. Shorten, Kemeny-based testing for COVID-19, PLOS ONE 15(11): e0242401, 2020.
  6. M. Bin, P. Cheung, E. Crisostomi, P. Ferraro, H. Lhachemi, R. Murray-Smith, C. Myant, T. Parisini, R. Shorten, S. Stein, L. Stone, On Fast Multi-Shot Epidemic Interventions for Post Lock-Down Mitigation: Implications for simple Covid-19 models, arXiv:2003.09930 (v4). , March 2020.


  1. Modelling intermittent lockdown: Compartmental scenarios, improving models
  2. Design of the outer loop in intermittent lockdown
  3. Compliance modelling
  4. Economic coupling and fairness
  5. Analysis of disease networks and community structure

The team

The team includes those directly funded by the project at Imperial College and the University of Glasgow, as well as collaborators from the University of Pisa, University of Tel Aviv, University College Dublin, Czech Technical University.

Funded staff:

bob Robert Shorten: Professor Shorten  is Professor of Cyber-physical Systems Design at Imperial College London and Professor of Control Engineering and Decision Science at UCD. He was a co-founder of the Hamilton Institute at Maynooth University, and led the Optimisation and Control team at IBM Research Smart Cities Research Lab in Dublin Ireland. He has been a visiting professor at TU Berlin and a research visitor at Yale University and Technion. He is a member of the IEEE Control Systems Society Technical Group on Smart Cities, and a member of the IFAC Technical Committees for Automotive Control, and for Discrete Event and Hybrid Systems. He is a co-author of the recently published books AIMD Dynamics and Distributed Resource Allocation (SIAM 2016) and Electric and Plug-in Vehicle Networks: Optimisation and Control (CRC Press, Taylor and Francis Group, 2017), and a co-editor of the recently published book: Analytics for the Sharing Economy: Mathematics, Engineering and Business Perspectives (Springer).

peter Peter Cheung: is Professor of Digital Systems, splitting his time between the Department of Electrical & Electronic Engineering, and Dyson School of Design Engineering. Together with Professor Wayne Luk in Department of Computing, he established one of the strongest research groups in the area of Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) in the UK.  His research in reconfigurable systems and technology include architecture, variability mitigation, reliability issues, high-level synthesis and tools, and various application area for FPGAs

thomas Thomas Parisini: Professor Parisini received the Ph.D. degree in Electronic Engineering and Computer Science in 1993 from the University of Genoa. He was with Politecnico di Milano and since 2010 he holds the Chair of Industrial Control and is Director of Research at Imperial College London. He is a Deputy Director of the KIOS Research and Innovation Centre of Excellence, University of Cyprus. Since 2001 he is also Danieli Endowed Chair of Automation Engineering with University of Trieste. In 2009-2012 he was Deputy Rector of University of Trieste. He authored or co-authored more than 330 research papers in archival journals, book chapters, and international conference proceedings. His research interests include neural-network approximations for optimal control problems, distributed estimation, distributed methods for cyber-attack detection and cyber-secure control of large-scale systems, fault diagnosis for nonlinear and distributed systems, nonlinear model predictive control systems and nonlinear estimation.

rod Roderick Murray-Smith: Roderick Murray-Smith is a Professor of Computing Science at Glasgow University, leading the Inference, Dynamics and Interaction  research group, and heads the 50-strong Section on Information, Data and Analysis. He works in the overlap between machine learning, interaction design and control theory. In recent years his research has included multimodal sensor-based interaction with mobile devices, mobile spatial interaction, AR/VR, Brain-Computer interaction and nonparametric machine learning. Prior to this he held positions at the Hamilton Institute, NUIM, Technical University of Denmark, M.I.T., and Daimler-Benz Research, Berlin, and was the Director of SICSA, the Scottish Informatics and Computing Science Alliance (all academic CS departments in Scotland). He works closely with the mobile phone industry, having worked together with Nokia, Samsung, FT/Orange,  Microsoft and Bang & Olufsen. He was a member of Nokia's Scientific Advisory Board and a member of the Scientific Advisory Board for the Finnish Centre of Excellence in Computational Inference Research. He has co-authored three edited volumes, 35 journal papers, 21 book chapters, and over 100 conference papers.

pietro Pietro Ferraro   received a Master’s degree in Robotics and control engineering and a Ph.D. in control and electrical engineering from University of Pisa, respectively in 2015 and in 2018. He is currently a Research Associate with the Dyson school of design engineering at Imperial College London. His research in terests include control theory applied to the Sharing Economy domain, Distributed Ledger Technologies and Artificial Intelligence.

Media 551513 smxx Sebastian Stein: Sebastian received his German Diplom (M.Sc. equivalent) in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering from the Technical University of Dortmund in 2010, and for his work on recognising manipulation actions and methods for fusing data from video and embedded accelerometers, he was awarded his Ph.D. in Computing from the University of Dundee in 2014. He continued his research as postdoctoral research assistant in Dundee before joining the University of Glasgow as Research Associate in 2016. His interests are in intelligent interactive systems, spanning areas of HCI, ubiquitous computing, action recognition, computer vision and machine learning.

MB 43 Michelangelo Bin: Michelangelo Bin received a Master’s degree in Automation Engineering and a Ph.D. in Control Theory from the University of Bologna in 2015 and 2019 respectively. From September 2019 he has been with the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Imperial College London where he is currently Research Associate. From September 2020 he is Associate Editor of Systems & Control Letters. His research interests include nonlinear control and regulation, observer design, distributed optimization and control, and adaptive systems.

Collaborating members:

emanuele Emanuele Crisostomi:  (IEEE Senior Member since 2016) received a B.Sc. degree in computer science engineering, M.Sc. degree in automatic control, and Ph.D. degree in automatics, robotics, and bioengineering from the University of Pisa, Italy, in 2002, 2005, and 2009, respectively. He is currently an Associate Professor of Electrotechnics with the Department of Energy, Systems, Territory, and Constructions Engineering, University of Pisa. His research interests include control and optimization of large scale systems, including smart grids and green mobility networks. He is a co-author of the recently published book on "Electric and Plug-in Vehicle Networks: Optimization and Control", CRC Press, Series: Automation and Control Engineering, 2017, and an Editor of the Springer Nature book on "Analytics for the Sharing Economy: Mathematics, Engineering and Business Perspectives", 2020.  Affiliation: Department of Energy, Systems, Territory and Constructions Engineering (DESTEC), University of Pisa, L. go L. Lazzarino 2, Pisa, Italy.

lewi stone Lewi Stone:   Lewi Stone employs mathematical models to help study biological systems.  His interest lies in particular in  theoretical ecology, in which he uses nonlinear dynamical systems theory, networks and probabilistic approaches to study the stability, persistence and extinction of species, often in a community context.  He is also greatly interested in modeling the spread of diseases in epidemiological systems, their seasonal drivers and their mitigation.  Specific research interests are: Theoretical Ecology, Mathematical Biology, Population Models of Disease Spread, Nonlinear Dynamics.

Ekaterina Ekaterina Dudkina: Ekaterina Dudkina was born in Saint-Petersburg, Russia in 1992. She received her M.Sc. degree in Energy management at Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University, Saint-Petersburg, Russia. After working in the Federal Grid Company, Russia, she continued her education and obtained a Master in Electrical Engineering for Smart Grids in Grenoble INP, Grenoble, France in 2016. Currently, she is pursuing a Ph.D. degree with the University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy. Her current research interests are on peer-to-peer energy markets and graph theory.

Hugo Hugo Lhachemi: Hugo Lhachemi received a four-year university degree in mathematics from Université Claude Bernard Lyon I, France, in 2011, an engineering degree from Ecole Centrale de Lyon, France, in 2013, and a M.Sc. degree in Aerospace Engineering from Polytechnique Montreal, Canada, in 2013. He received his Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engineering from Polytechnique Montreal in 2017. He was a postdoctoral fellow in Automation and Control at University College Dublin, Ireland, from 2018 to 2020. Since 2020, he is an Associate Professor of System Control at CentraleSupélec, France. His main research interests include nonlinear control, infinite dimensional systems, and their applications to aerospace and cyber-physical systems.

Hugo Serife Yilmaz: Serife Yilmaz received a four-year university degree in Mathematics Education and a Ph.D. degree in Mathematics from the Anadolu University, Eskisehir, Turkey, in 2007 and 2014, respectively. Since 2015, she is currently Assistant Professor of Mathematics Education at Mehmet Akif Ersoy University, Turkey. She is a postdoctoral fellow in Cyber Physical Systems Design at Imperial College London, London, UK, working with Prof. Robert Shorten, from 2020 to 2021. Her main research spans a number of areas. She has been active in control theory, linear algebra, dynamical systems, electric vehicles, smart city as well as Mathematics Education.

Jakub Jakub Mareček: Jakub Mareček received his Ph.D. degree from the University of Nottingham, Nottingham, U.K., in 2012. Currently, he is a faculty member at the Czech Technical University in Prague, the Czech Republic. He has also worked in two start-ups, at ARM Ltd., at the University of Edinburgh, at the University of Toronto, at IBM Research -- Ireland, and at the University of California, Los Angeles. His research interests include the design and analysis of algorithms for optimisation and control problems across a range of application domains.