Controlling the Spread of Covid 19: The Answer Lies in AI

Controlling the Spread of Covid 19

This Novel Corona Virus seems to have shaken up life as we know it and inevitably it’s going to continue to spread. But how far and fast that’s going to happen and what we are going to do about it, are questions still waiting for an answer.

Considering the situation one is bound to ask the question, could artificial intelligence play a part in providing the answers and maybe even help in improving the outcome. Well, the answer is yes but to understand that we need to understand what we are up against.I don’t have to say much we all know that we are living in unprecedented times.

“Since the first report of Covid-19 in Wuhan, China it has spread all over the globe. As China grappled with the crisis the world watched.”

There were signs of an outbreak detected very early on but it seemed distant to most at that time. But then slowly and surely a wave of infections began to appear around the globe. Governments, health officials and public scrambled to make sense of the situation and drastic changes were made. 

For many, the ceasing of everyday life has become a surreal shock not experienced since the Second World War. It is no doubt a difficult time for most as confusion and uncertainty prevail. There has certainly been chaos but there is also hope.

In this blog, we will be covering some of the artificial intelligence tools that are being employed to battle this disease.

Blue Dot- Global Epidemic Intelligence:

Artificial Intelligence has an important role in the initial understanding of this outbreak. Canadian specialists Blue Dot deals with global epidemic intelligence and identified very early on that something was amiss. With a combination of medical and airline data, this was the first group in the world that identified this outbreak.

On 31st Dec 2019, the machine learning algorithms that were developed by Blue Dot picked up information in the Chinese language about a virus-like Pneumonia which later was named Covid-19. The organization after receiving the information could draw parallels between the SARS outbreak 17 years earlier.

These historic parallels were only available due to the recorded data present on the internet that the AI machine could identify. Imagine if this was never the case, how doctors and world leaders would have been helpless if it wasn’t for AI systems.

“After this initial alert scientists and doctors have been able to work tirelessly to predict the nature of the virus, where it is going to hit next and what is the eco-system in which the virus exists..”

Benevolent AI:

It’s not just about tracking, the dream is that one day AI might be able to conjure up necessary vaccines in the spot or repurpose existing drugs to deal with new challenges. The latter being something that Benevolent AI in London is already leading the way on.

This company employs its AI to better understand the mechanism of disease by correlating data present about illnesses, drugs and outcomes. This way this organization is able to provide more information and at a faster rate. 

The algorithm present at Benevolent AI has the ability to process documents in real-time. The machine can read abstracts and researches that have been carried out regarding similar flu viruses and extracts relationships between key biological concepts helpful ineffective drug discovery.

There is a huge amount of information being released throughout the globe regarding this pandemic this AI system helps scientist not only analyse Coronavirus researches but the scientist is also able to merge this information with publications being released about underlying biological effects. 

The AI system has the ability to reason over biology at many different layers easing out the extra effort required by scientists. This way., there is no doubt that we can see an effective medicine coming really soon.


Nextstrain is an open-source project that provides data, sequencing and visualisations. It shows how the virus is evolving and if there are any possible mutations that can change its nature. Its largely understood because of this effort that the virus hasn’t become more dangerous over time as it spreads.

The data collected has helped scientists to establish the fact that the virus does not belong from a more deadly strain that can cause even more deaths. 

Big Data and Tracking:

Israel is planning to repurpose its AI technology used for tracking terrorism in order to track the spread of the virus. The technology would track the hones of the infected allowing for the government to track their GPS location. 

“This way government around the world has been effective in ascertaining critical zones where they could immediately test and place under quarantine.”

Now, this is a really complex matter but in its essence, things like social media are gold mines for information, information that can be used by AI systems in order to track Covid-19.

A similar AI data mining model has been employed by researchers at Viterbi School of Engineering that compares behavioural graphics and disease trends to understand the spread of viruses. This way a researcher is able to use complicated math to able to predict how viruses spread around the world.

Using big data gleaned from smartphones, China has been able to develop an App that can let authorities notify if the person has the status to be able to be out of the house. Authorities have been able to map people’s movements and issue a QR code that shows that status.

The application was designed by Alibaba and a mobile game development company, the app uses data collected by the smartphone which the analysed by AI systems to work out if the user has been in areas affected by the virus or has been close to people with the illness. 

The QR code works as a password which is checked by the authorities at highly crowded places like markets, residential areas, malls and parks.

Also, Read How AI in Education Helps School Pupils During COVID-19 Outbreak

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