Understanding COVID-19 mitigation in the generation next tech: Pratyush Mathur


Indians historically never shook hands or come in close contact or kissed each other as greetings. I wonder is this some sort of social mitigation measures instituted by our father’s and sages. Did the world’s largest and oldest civilisation evolve itself in some sort of community epidemic mitigation strategy in medicine?

The prevention, surveillance and prompt-response to a contagious disease can go a long way in decelerating and delaying the outbreak of a disease. The efforts of various organizations, institutions and the government in controlling and containing the coronaviruses is admirable. In the recent years and near future to come, the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning has become increasing important in the field of global healthcare. Artificial intelligence and machine learning can help us prevent and fight the outbreak of various infectious diseases and greatly reduce the threat of spread of these infections, hence it is vital to implement this into the global healthcare system as a preventive and defensive mechanism.


In the year 2002, the outbreak of SARS a pneumonia like virus in China had a devastating effect on China and the world economy. Factories and sales of international companies were slowed down, international trade was hit badly. But at that time China was not the prime element of global economy it is now. The recent outbreak of the coronavirus is having more severe consequences on the world economy, it is estimated by the Oxford Economics that China GDP growth will slow down to 5.6 percent, down from 6.1 percent last year. This in turn will slow down the global economic growth by 0.2 percent. This is a moderate figure, the actual may be very high or we may say “Actuals will come”.

The recent restrictions on travel to and fro from majority of the countries will disrupt the working of great many Indian companies who primarily deal in imports and exports of good and commodities from that country, the Chinese import market in India is worth $70 billion and export market amounting to over $17 Billion. 14 percent of Indian imports and 5 percent of Indian exports are with China, making it the largest Indian trading partner in the fiscal year of 2019. Near all of key Indian sectors aviation, electronics, tourism, Bollywood and auto and auto components have been hit by this outbreak

With the outbreak of the coronavirus, Indian national carrier Air India and budget airline Indigo has suspended all their flights to many countries, the smartphone and electronic market in India might be impacted as majority of these devices and their components are global in origin. Our dependence on the tourism, travel, eating outside, economic boost by various national festivals and most important our social economic fabrics in all dimensions are affected. These diseases brings out humans are social animal.

The effect on the Global Economy

The outbreak has had immense impact on the global economy. Travel restrictions and flight suspensions have dramatically reduced tourism, and many international food and beverage giants companies, including Starbucks and McDonald’s, have temporarily closed locations to mitigate risks of further transmission.

Following the WHO’s emergency declaration, the stock market dipped, reflecting fears that extended factory closures could disrupt global supply chains. Both Apple and Tesla reported production losses resulting from suspended operations at key factories in China.

BRI and the Virus

China while signing the new infrastructure contracts, had no indication of the corona obstacle about to come in between China’s plan for railways, ports and highways around the world. The travel restrictions to prevent the spread of the disease, have hindered much of the world’s second-largest economy and choked key elements of China’s signature Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). According to Chinese National Immigration Agency, more than 133 countries have imposed entry restrictions on Chinese citizens or people who have visited China. And it is ironical that, wherever there is a BRI, there are corona deaths too.

As known years ago, the Mongols developed the silk routes of commerce that bridged the medieval world from China to Italy, till one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 75 to 200 million people spread along them in the same direction, wiping out nearly half the world’s population. There is a striking similarity seen in today’s Covid-19 spread, it is too following the BRI route as the path that emerged in the 1300s ago. The virus reached Iran in few weeks infecting hundreds of people including the country’s deputy health minister. After Iran, it was Italy, evidently deteriorating the relationship of Beijing with Rome and the virus is likely spreading through Europe exactly as the plague did centuries ago. Although, it may be an early anticipation, but the surmise cannot be overlooked.

Coronavirus in India

Digging the historical data, it can be seen that epidemic of various proportions have struck China. Whereas the transmission of the same to India which has a sizable border with them is infinitesimal. These can be attributed to the mighty Himalayas which act as a thick quarantine and thermal insulation layers between the countries deterring man, animal and air quarantined.Exception and excellent temperature differential lessen the transmission of the diseases and it’s spread in Indian peninsula. Another significant reason why India remains immune is its cultural habits, Indian’s never shook hands or come in close contact or kissed while greeting each other’s. It looks like, this is some sort of social mitigation measures instituted by our fore father’s and sages. Did the world’s largest and oldest civilisation evolved itself in the community mitigation strategies in medicine.

India being the second largest population in the world, the difficulty in management if there is a spread of the epidemic it very high. The solution is to effectively use the technology for the faster & automatic detection and management of the epidemic. And data is the most crucial, for effective utilisation of the technology. For example, if someone is detected with Covid-19, the primary step for management should be to map the different types of data required, which could include; the travel history, last 15 days movement of the patient, details of everyone who came in contact with the patient in last 15 days and their classification based on the age group, temperature, population, environment, climatic condition of the region. With these primary data the cause and the possibility of spread can be deduced. The next set of databases should include; list of medical facilities required and the list of available hospitals, medical stores, doctors, hospital staffs, details of all the patients registered with the at least two symptoms of the epidemic. These databases could be utilised to predict the resources required for the management of the epidemic based on the predicted probable spread intensity. In this case the data would be enormous and it would require an efficient Big data analytical aided by Artificial Intelligence system to compute the same.

The data needed for the mitigation and control of contagious disease are different than the noncontagious disease. We need real time data, of the movement of the carrier (maybe possible or not) at all times and track him along with the other members around him and study the possibilities as sum or union to the populations around him. This can be done using Geo spatial sciences using GIS, and the Cell data of the tele-communication network largest and widest in the world. The possible population infected can be isolated as the possible carrier moves between the populations, the possibly infected population can be identified, and using the same services they can be informed on the possible risk he/she may be carrying. This can be used to identify a possible exposure score. This will assist the medical practitioners to identify the possible common looking symptoms and assist the government to provide the drugs and sanitising chemicals in more focused population so as to contain the epidemic faster.

Artificial intelligence for coronavirus

Chinese government was made aware of a possible outbreak of a disease like coronavirus by the World Health organization days before the actual emergency. On the 9th of January 2020, the WHO informed the Chinese government that a cluster of pneumonia cases had been reported in Wuhan, possibly from vendors’ exposure to live animals at the Huanan Seafood Market, the United states centre of disease control had told the same a few days earlier on January 6th. However, both the WHO and USCDC was out performed by a Canadian health monitoring platform called BlueDot. BlueDot uses an AI-driven algorithm that scours foreign-language news reports, animal and plant disease networks, and official proclamations to give its clients advance warning to avoid danger zones like Wuhan. Utilizing this technology, the knowledge of a possible outbreak was made public on December 31st 2019 nearly a week before USCDC.

People’s Google searches, social media posts and even chatbot questions are being used by artificial intelligence to try and predict where the novel coronavirus is going to pop up next.

An application in the field of predictive analyses of diseases, with a programme called Health Map developed by John Brown stein, a professor at Harvard Medical School, in collaboration with others uses publically available data from the internet to predict with a fine tuning of 15 years, where the virus may appear next.

Another breakthrough in the implementation of artificial intelligence, Ping An. Ping An just launched the new artificial intelligence solution on Feb. 19 and it’s already been used on scans for patients, as per latest data. The company claims its AI tool can pinpoint the disease from computed tomography images in about 15 seconds with 90% accuracy, compared to 15 minutes for a physician.

There are mobile phones with everyone now a days. Mobile phones can be easily tracked and with it location of owners. At the given time, at a particular location where the patient has been, other mobile phones which are in proximity of the patient’s phone can be detected.

This data can be used to identify all the people a patient would be in contact with. An algorithm can notify people who have been in contact with the patient via a SMS or email alert and tell them to get a check-up done for COVID- 19 or coronavirus.


As in my previous publication ” Economics of AI, Design Thinking, and Data Science for Smart Healthcare ” we emphasised that we need a huge media data collection mechanism to handle such global threats using AI.We need to answer that has this epidemic brought us close to open data and open sharing principles for AI or we still need more to reach there?Have we understood that, the globalization of the epidemic requires a more concentrated effort globally. The territorial boundaries are just symbolic and in sense internationalism is what is required when it comes to medical emergency. Anyone anywhere left out is an equal potential threat, “beyond the boundaries”. Benefits of AI needs to be applied uniformly and equally.In all dimensions from medicine to trade or epidemic management using AI needs unusual integrations. Therefore, open data and open AI architecture is must.An open liberal society with an open AI data analytic driven social mitigation management is needed for striking balance between epidemic management and social liberties. This epidemic has shown that closing the country is not an effective solution for epidemic management.

A solutions for COVID- 19 cannot be provided by a single entity. It is has collaboration between multiple organization. A specialized team, which would include Department of Science and Technology, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Telecommunication, Ministry of Electronics and Communications, Hospitals etc.

(Writer is Pratyush Mathur, Business Intelligence, AI & Big data enthusiast. Views expressed are a personal opinion.)

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