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Making sense of COVID-19 cases and people’s responses

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By Adrian Paul B. Conoza
Special Features Writer, BusinessWorld

Research firm mines insights from gathered local and global data

Aside from the number of cases, deaths, and recoveries, the activities and behavior changes of people have been tracked as the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) spreads across the globe.

These statistics can altogether paint a big picture of the current global situation under the COVID-19 crisis, as Synergy Market Research + Strategic Consultancy has done in its recent COVID-19 Situation Report.

Synergy’s situation report takes a glimpse on the attitudinal and behavioral responses of monitored consumers from selected countries and the potential impact of such responses to the spread or containment of cases in each country.

The report presents diverse data from various countries. Countries selected within Asia include Hong Kong, Japan, Philippines, Singapore, and South Korea. United States and European countries such as France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and United Kingdom were also selected.

The report compiled data gathered from various sources. Data from the Philippines were retrieved from the Department of Health (DoH) through the University of the Philippines’ COVID-19 Dashboard, while global data were retrieved from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health through the Humanitarian Data Exchange (HDX) platform.

Additional data were also gathered from global public opinion and data company YouGov’s COVID-19 Behavior Tracker and the Google Mobility Report.

Growth in cases probed

First among the compiled data in Synergy’s report, it was shown that confirmed cases are still growing in Asian countries, with South Korea having the most number of cases among other selected countries.

The country was seen having a slow rise since early March and getting more than 10,000 confirmed cases by early April.

Confirmed cases in US and European countries, however, are significantly higher, with US crossing the 500,000 border early in April.

Furthermore, after more than 500 cases were reached, the non-Asian countries have much steeper increases in cases than Asian ones as the days progressed.

While South Korea’s cases draw an apparent curve in the graph, US’ cases indicate an imminent climb. This climb is also in contrast to the slow increases in the European countries.

In terms of the growth of new cases, US and Europe tally a significant growth rate as they still get thousands of new cases per day. US got a 23% growth rate; while the rest have a rate of less than 20%, with Italy getting the lowest (13%).

Growth in selected Asian countries, meanwhile, has apparently slowed down to a manageable level. Philippines, however, has a two-digit rate (12%) as a more widespread testing is being implemented.

Acting upon an ‘onset of fear’

Behavioral patterns were also shown in the report. As YouGov’s tracker revealed, the onset of fear in catching COVID-19 has likely been felt earlier in Asian countries than in US and Europe, even if it took long for these countries to reach beyond 500 cases.

The Philippines is seen in the data to have the highest increase in this “onset of fear”.

A “lack of fear”, however, was observed to have probably lead to the delayed government response of Western countries to the alarming situation.

From this observed “onset of fear”, the report turned to data showing behavioral changes.

From YouGov’s tracker, it was observed that the incidence of wearing masks have increased in most of the Asian countries prior to the outbreak of the disease. Hong Kong, Philippines, and Japan were tracked to have adapted to such measures before the pandemic.

Increases in the use of masks on US and Europe, on the other hand, were observed only after significant cases were being recorded.

The tracker has also observed increased incidences of working from home (WFH) in most of the selected countries. Philippines was seen adopting WFH much higher compared with the other countries.

Japan, on the other hand, was seen to apparently have maintained a work setup as close to “normal” as possible.

In terms of mobility, the Google Mobility Tracker shows Hong Kong, Singapore, and South Korea having average rates of mobility that are close to ‘normal’ (-27%, -15%, and 4%, respectively), which the report attributes to early intervention and case control measures.

Philippines, however, is among those with the lowest rates of mobility (-53%).

On the other hand, US and Germany still maintained significant public mobility (-28% and -13%, respectively) compared with other European countries who also tallied near to or less than the mobility rate of the Philippines.

“There are indications that those who have early onset of ‘fear’ in contracting COVID-19 could have influenced early intervention and adoption of safety measures such as wearing of masks and decreasing mobility,” Synergy observed in the report. “Such response may have, in turn, impacted on extent of spread or containment of cases in each country.”

Trends in cases a ‘litmus test’ for PHL

Whilst not included in the aforementioned sets of data, China’s incremental confirmed cases per day were compared to those in the Philippines in the report.

From China’s data, an increase was observed around 2.5 weeks after a lockdown was implemented, particularly in the Hubei province.

Forty days after, the number of daily cases decreased below 200. As this trend has remained, the lockdown was lifted a month after.

The Philippines, however, has recorded incremental cases that are still in the hundreds, with older age groups and males appearing to be more susceptible to the virus.

The country reached its highest increment cases recorded by the end of March, about two weeks after the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

The ‘spikes’ in such cases thereafter have slowly gone lower. But, as the fight against the virus continues, Synergy finds it is yet to be determined whether the preventive measures are effective.

“Learning from the China experience, an indicator of the effectiveness of the ECQ and other efforts to stem the tide of new cases is what this number will be on April 24 (40 days from ECQ),” the report read.

Data from DoH last April 24 tallied 211 new cases and the following day tallied a lower number of new cases (102). New cases spiked once more to 285 last April 26.

As of April 27, there are 198 new cases, including 10 deaths and 70 recoveries.





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