In early 2020, a new virus called COVID-19 topped the news headlines broke out in Wuhan, China. The outbreak quickly turned into a global concern, and the World Health Organization (WHO) declared it a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

Therefore, the public health institutions and GIS community over the globe mobilized to understand this novel disease better. So, with the apparent overlap between geography and epidemiology, GIS has become an integral tool and a key player to assist with disease surveillance, perform research, investigate and explore new associations between exposures and health outcomes and visualizing disease development and activity.

To stay up to date on this health crisis, hundreds of thousands of organizations from international bodies such as the World Health Organization to academics, local governments, and hospitals now create billions of maps every day. By taking advantage of the location intelligence technology known as geographic information systems, as an integral part of their preparedness and response activities to comprehend the spread and effects of epidemics.

The Value of Location Intelligence In the era of  COVID-19

Location Intelligence has a crucial task in understanding, tracking, planning, and resolving the Covid-19 outbreak. Also, understanding the site of the ailment, where it was moving from and to, and when, has been essential in reducing the disease and death rates across the globe. There are many areas where location intelligence is playing a pivotal role; here are four examples:

Firstly, location intelligence has been crucial in both visualizing and communicating the impacts of the pandemic. Like its subject, the spatially-powered dashboard ‘became a web sensation’ during COVID-19, and we saw governments, health organizations, and communities stand these up to keep people informed. By a wide margin, the most mainstream of these has been the Johns Hopkins University dashboard. There are various other dashboards around the globe for monitoring and anticipation of COVID-19 spread. One of the most legitimate is directed by the  World Health Organization (WHO), which gives a nation-by-nation update of cases. A comparative global dashboard offering considerably more prominent degrees of granularity is HealthMap.

Besides, location intelligence upheld organizations and associations to take on new operational cycles to adapt to a novel mode of working, such as business workflows, supply chain management, personnel, and facilities.

Thirdly, geo-enabled field and data capture tools have been utilized to gather data quicker and all the more precisely, enabling government leaders to react and respond rationally.

Lastly, location intelligence supports getting individuals back to work safely while ensuring compliance with social distancing guidelines with an accurate map of internal office space built using GIS tools.

COVID-19 Global Maps

As maps profoundly influence our understanding of and behavioral response to COVID-19, the GIS community floated into action. Companies with expertise in geospatial mappings such as CartoESRI, and MapBox have helpfully compiled vast repositories of mapping tools. These firms have developed sophisticated software and accessible dashboards to help governments, businesses, health agencies, and grassroots groups better respond and recover from COVID-19. Also, news authorities like the BBC used maps to communicate the spread of the disease in both space and time.

Given the usefulness of GIS in controlling the spread of COVID-19, its role can be institutionalized as part of the anti-COVID-19 fight. Its smart use can provide us the following benefits:

  • Show precisely where confirmed COVID-19 cases are on a map of the country/region, including where most cases are. Cartographic and statistical tools further allow categorizing of cases.
  • Show where the most vulnerable people are in any location—e.g., by showing how many older people, and persons with chronic diseases, live in any specific area. Maps can also indicate which part of a town, for instance, are more densely populated than others, and can be vulnerable to a faster spread of COVID-19.
  • Well designed and executed, maps can build awareness and shape smarter decision-making from the global to the hyper-local level because tracking diseases helps scientists determine its cause and behavior. Moreover, alert residents and reinforce the need for caution also locate vulnerable populations informs responses.
  • Maps present information in an efficient way, which is easy-to-read that can help decision-makers to understand the situation quickly and make decisions swiftly.

COVID-19 & GIS Big Data Management

Now, as new cases of COVID-19 are increasing rapidly and are reported daily at astonishing rates. This unexpected spurt of cases and their medical data fluctuate hastily created a vital source of information and knowledge. Besides, lessons learned from similar pandemics formerly, such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), have conjointly created an enormous amount of data generally referred to as Big data.

Big data facilitates computational analyses indicating patterns, trends, associations, and variations. Likewise, it helps reveal the insights into the transmission and control of this disease by analyzing and storing all types of cases either infected, recovered, or expired by the plague. The information received is effectively used for case identification and allocating the resources for better protection of public health; additionally, it can be prepared again for creating future preventive techniques.

Based on the described characteristics, big data is defined with the ‘3V’ approach, which denotes volume, variety, and velocity. Other Vs have also been suggested, including Veracity, variability, validity, volatility, visibility, value, and visualization.

Based on these characteristics, big data being the next edge of innovation has dramatically impacted every industry, and there is no wonder that big data is becoming a larger part of geographic information science. Because Big data and GIS have some common aspects like they are similar in the data processing. GIS,  as a vastly applicable technological tool of data collection, can assist big data analysis for prevention, treatment, spatial transmission, and control of the coronavirus from further expansion. Also, it can help in the proper allocation of resources and spatial detection of societal attitudes, among other things. However, it also poses some challenges.

  1. The instant building of big data information systems, including the acquisition and integration of problem-oriented data sets.
  2. Quick and convenient mapping of COVID-19 responses
  3. Association between spatial tracking and the spatiotemporal trajectory of big data for predicting the transmission and prevention scale.
  4. Rapid estimation of the population movement and distribution and

monitoring of social sentiment.

  1. Estimation of the material supply and demand for medical resources and assessing material and transportation risk.

COVID-19 endures testing our collective ability to respond around the globe. Visualizing the spread on a map surfaced the need for social distancing. Perhaps commitment GIS offers to this exertion is to put pandemic data, once confined to scientists and public health professionals, now into the hands of local responders. They presently have the tools to understand this information. It has enabled more local agencies to find illness, educate the general society, and target the administrations.

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