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Google web searches can help predict Covid hotspots

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By analysing Google web searches for keywords related to Covid-19, researchers have said that web-based analytics have demonstrated their value in predicting the spread of the infectious disease.

According to the study, published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Strong correlations were found between keyword searches on the internet search engine Google Trends and Covid-19 outbreaks in parts of the US.

These correlations were observed up to 16 days prior to the first reported cases in some states.

“Our study demonstrates that there is information present in Google Trends that precedes outbreaks, and with predictive analysis, this data can be used for better allocating resources with regards to testing, personal protective equipment, medications and more,” said study author Mohamad Bydon from Mayo Clinic — a health care company in the US.

“Looking at Google Trends data, we found that we were able to identify predictors of hotspots, using keywords, that would emerge over a six-week timeline,” Bydon added.

Several studies have noted the role of internet surveillance in early prediction of previous outbreaks such as H1N1 and Middle East respiratory syndrome.

There are several benefits to using internet surveillance methods versus traditional methods, and this study says a combination of the two methods is likely the key to effective surveillance.

The study searched for 10 keywords that were chosen based on how commonly they were used and emerging patterns on the internet and in Google News at that time.

The keywords were: Covid symptoms, Coronavirus symptoms, sore throat, shortness of breath+fatigue+cough, coronavirus testing centre, loss of smell, antibody, face mask and more.

Most of the keywords had moderate to strong correlations days before the first Covid-19 cases were reported in specific areas, with diminishing correlations following the first case.

“Each of these keywords had varying strengths of correlation with case numbers,” said Bydon.

If we had looked at 100 keywords, we may have found even stronger correlations to cases. As the pandemic progresses, people will search for new and different information, so the search terms also need to evolve,” Bydon added.

The use of web search surveillance data is important as an adjunct for data science teams who are attempting to predict outbreaks and new hotspots in a pandemic.

“Any delay in information could lead to missed opportunities to improve preparedness for an outbreak in a certain location,” the authors noted.

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Rahul Gandhi: Accepting Less Than Scrapping Farm Laws Will Be Deceit To Farmers

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The Congress has stepped up the demand of immediately scrapping the farm laws in the wake of the farmers’ protest in the national capital. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said in a tweet,”Accepting less than scrapping of three black farm laws will be deceit to farmers and the country.”

The Congress leader’s reaction comes even as the meeting between the farmers and the government is going on to resolve the issue.

Talks between the Centre and over 34 farmer union representatives has started here, even as the farmers protest entered the eighth straight day with thousands sitting on different Delhi borders blocking essential supply chains to the city.

Like the previous round of talks held on December 1, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Tomar and Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Minister Piyush Goyal are leading the meeting, which is expected to play a major role in farmers’ future course of action on whether they would continue the protest or withdraw it.

The Bharatiya Kisan Union, Bharatiya Kisan Sanyukta Morcha and Krantikari Kisan Union are among over the 34 farm union representatives taking part in the meeting, which started around 12.30 p.m.

The fourth round of meetings with the farmer leaders started at Vigyan Bhawan after the earlier talks remained inconclusive on December 1.

In the last meeting, the farmers’ representatives had unanimously rejected the Centre’s proposal of a special committee to resolve concerns over the farm laws.

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