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The Optimise Study: Optimising Isolation, Quarantine and Distancing for COVID-19

The Optimise Study is a research project led by Burnet Institute and Doherty Institute, that aims to find out how Victorians are experiencing COVID-19 and responding to the measures introduced to stop the spread of the virus.

The information gathered in this research project will help guide Victoria’s approach to COVID-19, both to prevent new infections and to reduce the health, social and economic impacts of COVID-19 restriction and prevention measures. This network image is an example of close contact between people from the Optimise Project which covers from the beginning of the project in September 2020 until September 2021. The network image does not show all people involved in the Optimise Project, but instead focuses on only some of the connections between people.

The blue dots are people in the Optimise Project, and are participants or other people that participants have contact with. The grey lines represent the close contact between people. You can see that between some people (i.e., some blue dots) there are many lines between people who interact a lot with one another. Between other people, there is only one connection between people indicating only one interaction between those people. And of course, there are no lines between some people, meaning they do not have contact with one another at all. You can see that some people cluster together in groups, while others only have regular contact with one other person. It is natural for people to differ in how many others they connect with. The Optimise Study is a research project led by Burnet Institute and Doherty Institute, that aims to find out how Victorians are experiencing COVID-19 and responding to the measures introduced to stop the spread of the virus.

Collect strategic information:

  • Understand compliance and adherence with social isolation, quarantine and physical distancing
  • Determine key factors affecting cooperation with social and physical distancing measures, including health, social, structural and economic factors
  • Assess unintended consequences of isolation and distancing measures on key vulnerable groups and among the general population
  • Identify vulnerable populations for whom sustaining self-isolation is more difficult or who are disproportionately affected
  • Measure social contacts and mixing patterns to inform transmission modelling and assess if key groups or individuals are at higher risk of COVID-19 infection

Inform national policy and practice:

  • Inform government strategy to release the population from the current “lock down” in a precise and informed way, that mitigates the risk of a flare up of new infections
  • Improve messaging and to enhance comprehension, acceptability and cooperation with Government guidance and interventions
  • Test the feasibility and acceptability of emerging strategies for COVID-19 testing such as point-of-care tests, home-based testing and antibody testing
  • Develop strategies to support highly vulnerable populations to reduce their risk of infection and limit unintended consequences
  • Report to the State and Federal Government through regular reports on compliance, key factors affecting compliance, and mechanisms to improve compliance

Understand and predict through mathematical models:

  • Develop dynamic precision agent based mathematical models, utilising empirical data from the Optimise Study to inform and test strategic, such as the timing of the government’s release and restore strategies and the impact of various testing strategies,
    “Even with high vaccine coverage across the community, if people have COVID-like symptoms they still need to get tested and stay home until they get their test result,” Burnet Deputy Director Professor Margaret Hellard AM said. Evidence from the Optimise Study will also assist community organisations and key health service groups in restoring economic activity and recreational activities whilst keeping new infections of COVID-19 at a low level. This involves real-time testing of key interventions to allow global scaling at speed.
Square Margaret Hellard 210X210

Professor Margaret Hellard AM

Contact Professor Margaret Hellard AM for more information on this project.



  • Victorian Government COVID-19 Victorian Consortium Clinical/Public Health Pillar - $1 million
  • Macquarie Group - $1 million
  • Burnet Institute - $1 million

Partners + Collaborators

Principal Investigators and Co-chairs

  • Burnet Institute: Professor Margaret Hellard AM
  • Doherty Institute: Dr Katherine Gibney

Chief Investigators

  • Burnet Institute: Dr Alisa Pedrana, Dr Nick Scott, Professor Mark Stoove, Dr Angela Davis, Associate Professor Joseph Doyle, Dr Rachel Sacks Davis, Professor David Wilson
  • Melbourne University: Professor Lisa Gibbs, Dr Freya Shearer, Dr Nic Geard
  • Swinburne University: Professor Dean Lusher
  • LaTrobe University: Dr Sophie Hill
  • Monash University: Professor Alex Collie

Advisory Committee

  • Doherty Institute: Professor Jodie McVernon
  • Melbourne University: Professor Nancy Baxter
  • Victorian Department of Health & Human Services: Victorian Chief Health Officer, Professor BreD SuDon
  • Health Issues Centre: Danny Vadasz

Other Partners +

  • Burnet Institute: Anna Bowring, Dr Anna Wilkinson, Dr Katherine Heath, Freya Saich, Stephanie Curtis, Dr Jack Wallace, Dr Shelley Walker, Stephanie Munari, Danielle Horyniak, Dr Megan Lim, Emily Adamson, Professor Caroline Homer AO, Associate Professor David Anderson, Associate Professor Josh Vogel, Dr Minh Pham, Dr Suman Majumdar, Tim Spelman, Dr Alyce Wilson
  • Doherty Institute: Dr Nicole Allard, Dr Simon Graham, Dr David Price
  • Melbourne University: Dr Cameron Zachreson, Professor Deborah Williamson, Associate Professor Jonathan Liberman, Dr Karen Block, Niamh Meagher, Phoebe Quinn, Dr Jane Oliver, Dr Meghan Bohren, Professor Lena Sanci
  • Swinburne University: Dr Peng Wang, Ali Hassani
  • LaTrobe University: Dr Bronwen Merner, Dr Rebecca Ryan
  • Monash University: Professor Allen Cheng, Professor Sally Green
  • Centre for Culture Ethnicity and Health: Bernice Murphy
  • Royal Children’s Hospital: Associate Professor Margie Danchin
  • Independent Multicultural Consultant: Coelho Networks


Meet the project team. Together, we are translating research into better health, for all.