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Use & Importance of GIS during COVID-19 Pandemic

The world is united in its fight against the Novel Coronavirus 2019, more commonly known as the COVID-19. This epidemic has spread like never before in the history of humankind. The rapid globalization has played a significant role in this widespread repercussion.

Thankfully, globalization is playing the role of a double-edged sword by providing means to combat this pandemic too. It supports the availability of the latest technological and medical developments in various parts of the globe. The healthcare industry, along with the support of numerous technical innovations, is driving the world to recover.

To stop the spread of COVID-19, it is essential to understand the dynamics of this pandemic in terms of community spread, high-risk groups, recovery rates, death rates, new case reports, etc. One of the most reliable tools that are being used by experts in all fields is the Geographic Information System (GIS).

GIS is a framework that integrates, manages, and analyses different types of data. It is rooted in geographical sciences and acts as a location intelligence tool and provides valuable data concerning COVID-19. GIS makes use of the available resources to provide the best possible solutions.

The GIS framework has helped nations to create dashboards to monitor the disease spread. However, apart from enhancing global connectivity and awareness, there are many more modes by which GIS is helping humanity conquer the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

  1. To map the cases of COVID-19- By mapping the confirmed and active cases in different regions, GIS has been crucial in determining the number of cases in different parts of the world.
  1. To monitor the spread of the pandemic- GIS can analyze the rate of new cases, recovery rates, and fatalities across space and time. This gives valuable information to epidemiologists regarding the direction and the scale of the spread.
  1. To detect the hotspots and sealing of the location- Once the cases are mapped, and the rate of spread is calculated, it would be easier to understand the hotspot regions. Further, this information can be used to seal and lockdown such areas. This will control the spread of the pandemic to a large extent.
  1. To understand the spread pattern- The interactions of COVID- 19 infected persons can be studied using GIS. This is done by tracking their card transactions, mobile phone tower locations, and travel details.
    • This valuable information can be added to the GIS and warn the community regarding possible spread.
    • Various analytical techniques have been employed by institutions across the world to create an epidemiologic curve that shows disease spread patterns globally.
  1. To track down potential suspects- The most vital method of preventing the spread of COVID-19 is through social distancing. GIS has made it possible to provide the details of potential suspects of the primary contact. This will help to prevent contact of such people with other members of the community through effective quarantine.
  1. To identify potential risk areas- GIS can incorporate the data for social vulnerability index from various Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
    • This will help the GIS to identify the possible socioeconomic and race of world populations that are at higher risk.
    • The census data provide information regarding the demography of a region. This information can help the GIS to detect the location of high-risk groups like senior communities and retirement destinations.
  1. Help people to avoid visiting hotspots- Communication is the most significant advantage of GIS facilities. Governments across the globe can share information with partners and the public using such dashboards.
    • It aids in the isolation of hotspots from people from other parts.
    • The recognition of such risky areas has resulted in the closure of institutions, early evacuations, and other methods of leveraging social distancing protocols.
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  1. Mapping of isolation centers, hospitals and testing facilities- This is one of the most valuable uses of the GIS.
    • There are many hospitals that regularly update the available capacities to policymakers. Once this information is fed to the GIS network, the respective tools will analyze the patterns.
    • Further, information regarding the diminishing capacities in a hospital and bed utilization rates is made available in such portals. Such tools have helped in converting underutilized facilities to full-fledged healthcare spaces and makeshift hospitals.
    • Added, GIS can match vulnerable populations with such facilities and assist in promoting accessibility.
  1. To forecast and visualize disease rates- Epidemiologists are working on different GIS modeling techniques to predict the disease dynamics in the coming days. It will help to analyze the possible rates and direction of disease spread. Such forecasting models will help the authorities to decide where to implement control, preventive, and surveillance measures. The allocation of resources in such testing times can play a vital role in the management of the pandemic.
  1. To assess supply chain facilities- During such curfew-like times, proper functioning of supply chain facilities is highly relevant. GIS can determine the efficient routes from different warehouses to hospitals and other healthcare facilities. This ensures the quickest ways to provide essential commodities. Such supply chain-related GIS tools can be used for other essential items like vegetables, fruits, dairy products, etc.
  1. To track patients- GIS, along with the Global Positioning System (GPS), can track the mobile phone’s network of the patient. This will ensure proper quarantining of the patient and limit the spread of the disease. Government agencies use such geofencing techniques to keep watch on the patients and check for violations.
  1. To assess the impact of interventions- Evaluating the extent of success of each intervention is necessary for the proper utilization of limited resources. GIS maps can be used by officials to understand the impact of a particular intervention on the control and prevention of disease spread, recovery rates, etc. There are disease distribution maps that are real-time updated and show the changes in different areas.

Policymakers in all parts of the world have come to acknowledge the efficiency of GIS tools to communicate, assess, and understand the scale of COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, many governments have even taken assistance of this technology. Most importantly, GIS maps can help to suppress misinformation, which is the biggest cause of worry during these difficult times.

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