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.

The study is focused on two key intervention methods to restrict the spread of the COVID-19 virus – isolation/quarantine and physical distancing.

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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.

Optimise Participant Contact Network

Click to view a larger image.

The below animation, which shows the speed and far reach of the spread of COVID-19 across greater Melbourne in 2020, highlights the need for populations to practice physical distancing and ​follow isolation/quarantine orders.

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.


Principal Investigators and Co-chairs

  • Professor Margaret Hellard AM
  • Dr Katherine Gibney

Burnet Institute

  • Professor Margaret Hellard AM – Principal Investigator
  • Dr Alisa Pedrana – Chief Investigator & Working Group Lead
  • Dr Nick Scott – Chief Investigator & Working Group Lead
  • Professor Mark Stoove – Chief Investigator & Working Group Lead
  • Dr Angela Davis – Chief Investigator
  • Associate Professor Joseph Doyle – Chief Investigator
  • Dr Rachel Sacks Davis – Chief Investigator
  • Professor David Wilson – Chief Investigator
  • 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 Katherine Gibney – Principal Investigator & Working Group Lead
  • Professor Jodie McVernon – Advisory Committee
  • Dr Nicole Allard
  • Dr Simon Graham
  • Dr David Price

Melbourne University

  • Professor Lisa Gibbs – Chief Investigator & Working Group Lead
  • Dr Freya Shearer – Chief Investigator
  • Dr Nic Geard – Chief Investigator
  • Professor Nancy Baxter – Advisory Committee
  • 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

  • Professor Dean Lusher – Chief Investigator
  • Dr Peng Wang
  • Ali Hassani

LaTrobe University

  • Dr Sophie Hill – Chief Investigator
  • Dr Bronwen Merner
  • Dr Rebecca Ryan

Monash University

  • Professor Alex Collie – Chief Investigator
  • Professor Allen Cheng
  • Professor Sally Green

Victorian Department of Health & Human Services

  • Victorian Chief Health Officer, Professor Brett Sutton – Advisory Committee

Centre for Culture Ethnicity and Health

  • Bernice Murphy

Health Issues Centre

  • Danny Vadasz – Advisory Committee

Royal Children’s Hospital

  • Associate Professor Margie Danchin

Independent Multicultural Consultant

  • Coelho Networks


Optimise Study partners


Report 17: COVID-19 vaccine intention, and adherence to isolation and quarantine recommendations

Special Report: A rapid survey examining frequency, impacts of long COVID and associated concerns

Report 16: COVID-19 related worry, acceptability of prevention measures and confidence in government

Special Report: A rapid survey examining the influence of potential cessation of the Victorian pandemic declaration

Special Report: Concerns about children returning to school in 2022

Special Report: Summer 2021-2022 Snapshot

Report 15: COVID-19 testing, test positivity and contacts over time

Report 14: COVID-19 worry and perceptions about infection and potential severity

Report 13: Impacts of the COVID-19 response on culturally and linguistically diverse communities

Report 12: COVID-19 testing in schools and attitudes and concerns about the current state of the pandemic

Report 11: COVID-19 testing and vaccination

Report 10: Information access and communication about COVID-19

Report 9: Vaccination knowledge, attitudes and beliefs

Report 8: Impact of government restrictions on risk mitigation strategies

Report 7: The impact of COVID-19 on income and finances

Report 6: Gendered differences in coping and responding to COVID-19

Report 5: Social Networks and Mixing Patterns

Report 4: Vaccine Preparedness

Report 3: Testing and Strategies to Improve Testing Uptake – February 2021

Report 2: Vaccine Confidence – December 2020

Report 1 – November 2020


CARE Survey 7. Report to the Victorian Department of Health, June 2022

CARE Survey 6: Report to the Victorian Department of Health, December 2021

CARE Report 5 and Appendix. Report to the Victorian Department of Health, November 2021

CARE Report 4 and Appendix. Report to the Victorian Department of Health, August 2021

CARE Report 3, COVID-19 Attitudes, Practices and Impacts: The Victorian Experience. Report to the Victorian Department of Health, October 2020


Report 1: COVID-19 - What needs to come next?

Report 2: Rapid Antigen Testing

Report 3: COVID vaccinations - what are the barriers for your family?

(Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities)

CEG Report 2

CEG Report 1

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12 months


AUD$3 million total

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


Contact Details

For any general enquiries relating to this project, please contact:

Burnet Institute

[email protected]