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A new web app lets you track human mobility and covid-19

‘COVID-19 vs Human Mobility’ shows the connections between human movement, government policies and covid-19 cases

Pedestrians walk through the Creamall shopping arcade in Kawagoe, Saitama Prefecture, Japan, on Sunday, June 13, 2021. (Bloomberg)

Lockdown restrictions and quarantine regulations imposed due to covid-19 dramatically changed the way humans moved around the world. Human mobility and movement, in fact, heavily affected the spread of the pandemic.

Now, researchers at the University of Miami have developed a new interactive web application that analyzes patterns between human movement and the pandemic. To understand how the covid-19 pandemic affected human movement on a global scale, Shouraseni Sen Roy, a professor in the College of Arts and Sciences Department of Geography and Sustainable Development, and graduate student Christopher Chapin have developed ‘COVID-19 vs. Human Mobility’, which shows the links between human mobility, government policies, and covid-19 cases.

Also read: New report shows how pandemic cut traffic congestion in most countries in 2020

“At a macro level, understanding movement patterns of people can help influence decision making for higher-level policies, like social gathering restrictions, mask recommendations, and tracking and tracing the spread of infectious diseases,” Sen Roy explains in a news release. “At a local level, understanding the movement of people can lead to more specific decisions, like where to set up testing sites or vaccination sites.” The findings and further information on the application were published recently in a study in the Journal of Geovisualization and Spatial Analysis.

Traffic moves on a flyover, after authorities eased lockdown restrictions that were imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease, in New Delhi, India, June 8, 2021.
Traffic moves on a flyover, after authorities eased lockdown restrictions that were imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease, in New Delhi, India, June 8, 2021. (REUTERS)

To get the application up and running, the researchers used a collection of big data sets from three different, independent sources: Oxford University's COVID-19 Government Response Tracker, which provides data on government policies implemented during the pandemic, global cases of covid-19 gathered by Johns Hopkins University, and Apple Maps, which shows data on human movement via walking, driving, and public transportation, the release explains.

Once on the application, you can see the comparisons between human mobility (walking, driving and transit) and covid-19 cases across time by selecting any country, including India, or state around the world. The app also shows you information on government policies that were enforced in relation to the spread of the pandemic.

The researchers also found a few case studies that suggested interesting trends. “For example, in New Orleans, the application shows a spike in human mobility at the end of February 2020, which coincided with Mardi Gras celebrations. Coincidentally, there was a corresponding spike in covid-19 cases almost a month after the event,” the release adds.

Although the app is specific to the covid-19 pandemic, Sen Roy says the framework could be modified to create a similar application for natural disasters, as long as the appropriate data sets are available.

Also read: What travellers want during a pandemic? Luxury

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