Can Google Help Stop the Spread of Coronavirus?

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Google has been serving up a lot of explanations to users about the coronavirus symptoms in relation to the COVID-19 crisis. There have been studies in the US that show a correlation between the number of searches for COVID-19 symptoms and the hotspots of Coronavirus a month later.

They found that an increased search for gastrointestinal symptoms lead to a rise in coronavirus cases in the weeks after. Common searches of loss of taste and appetite on Google led to an increased infection rate in high-occurrence areas of the country. This was the case in New York, California and many more areas of the US. 

Searches for gastrointestinal systems led to a rise in reported COVID-19 cases in a predictable fashion.

The method of using Google searches to predict outbreaks of COVID-19 isn’t a new thing, the method has been used before to track outbreaks of influenza. In the case of influenza, the lag time between a spike in symptom searches and an outbreak was closer at one or two weeks.

Here are some popular COVID-19 related Google Searches in the past week:

1. What is a virus?

2. Can you get corona twice?

3. Is coronavirus weakening?

4. How long do coronavirus results take?

5. How to get a coronavirus test?

As Google can see where you’re searching from using your unique server IP address, an increased number of people searching these types of questions, could indicate where the next hotspot for COVID-19 is. This could help the NHS prepare for an influx of potential cases coming into hospital.

A partnership between Google and the NHS could prove effective in the fight against the Coronavirus.

Back in April, Google produced ‘Mobility Reports’ which helped the government track the publics movements during the height of the pandemic. The global search engine published data from over 130 countries. Each report contained information on different services including buses, trains and supermarkets. The data was based on the Google Maps app or other smartphone services and helped the governments understanding of the effect of social distancing. Google emphasised that it protected the privacy of individuals during the handling of data.

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