Coronavirus was first identified in December, 2019 in Wuhan, China. After several confirmed cases and deaths, including some recoveries, the World Health Organisation recognised the virus as a pandemic on March 11, 2020. The virus is affecting over 160 countries and territories globally and 1 international conveyance (the Diamond Princess cruise ship harbored in Yokohama, Japan). Beyond Wuhan as the epicentre of the disease, the World Health Organisation has also stated that Europe had become the new epicentre.
To contain the global spread of the disease, handwashing, social distancing, self-isolation among others have been suggested by experts, individuals and organisations. Open access papers and citizen science are some of the sources of information available to people and businesses for proper understanding of the virus and specific containment and mitigation messages.
As global leaders and businesses battling the outbreak, our exponential analysis of the world interest in the virus through the categories of information sought between December 1, 2019 and March 17, 2020 reveals that public interest in understanding the virus is increasing by 72% per day, while the interest in deaths associated with the virus is increasing by 86%. This figure is not quite different for interest in recoveries. We found 86.4% increase in understanding the number of people recovered from the disease per day.
Exhibit 1: Exponential Growth of World Interest in Coronavirus and Its Components
Exhibit 2: Comparative Scores of Top Related Search Terms by Coronavirus Top Related Search Terms
Analysis had earlier indicated that the total global volume of interest in the virus was 1, 111. The total search interest in deaths, cases and recoveries was 759, 578 and 547 respectively. While exploring various sources for better understanding of the virus, our analysis suggests that people had significant interest in symptoms and cases. Apart from this, analysis indicates that people also had specific interest in knowing the countries and continents with the highest number of cases and how the stakeholders are responding to the virus.
We found phrases such as coronavirus China, UK coronavirus, Italia coronavirus, coronavirus France among others. Within the deaths, analysis establishes that people developed interest in deaths using deaths coronavirus, flu deaths, deaths today among others. For the cases, coronavirus was the index keyword used by the people while coronavirus cases, how many cases of coronavirus and US coronavirus cases constituted the main search phrases.
Our analyst observes that the use of country name for understanding of the cases could be situated within the recent view expressed by Professor Ayobami Ojebode, University of Ibadan. According to the Professor of Development Communication, “before the first case was discovered in Nigeria, there was little media attention. It ran as one-item news lines without analysis or commentary. This was understandable because it seemed like a Chinese problem alone.” Coronavirus recoveries and recoveries from coronavirus were the dominant phrases used for the retrieval of relevant messages on the number of recovered people.