June 30, 2020

Why COVID-19 awareness is more critical now than ever

As countries begin to lift restrictions on movement, with employees returning to offices, the world enters a new normal. Despite the physical distancing restrictions in place, the economy is expected to breathe again. Yet, to ensure that this stage is successful, it’s essential to remain vigilant and aware of the latest research around COVID-19. 

Because the research around the virus is relatively new, being aware of new developments can help businesses plan accordingly and set their expectations correctly (especially companies operating in over one country). It can help individuals plan their future trips, and ensure that citizens are following the latest official guidelines on the best methods to prevent the further spread of the disease. 

Fake news: the second pandemic

As millions across the globe go to the internet and social media to share new information regarding the virus, many more millions share data that is incorrect. 

As panic spreads over calmness, individuals want the best for their loved ones, so they have been quick to share videos and content across the internet, without fact-checking. According to research, media coverage is a crucial component in containing infectious diseases. [1]

Thinking the pandemic is over

While some share false information, others return to pre-pandemic life without taking precautions. The fear of life returning to normal rings true especially for communities that are not made aware. 

As some return to ‘normal life,’ they may feel that the pandemic is over; thus, they take fewer precautions. However, the reality is far from this. 

What the science says

A 2009 paper titled “The spread of awareness and its impact on epidemic outbreaks” by Sebastian F., Erez G., Chris W., and Vincent A. said, “When a disease breaks out in a human population, changes in behavior in response to the outbreak can alter the progression of the infectious agent…it is not so much the presence of the disease itself that will prompt humans to change their behavior, as awareness of the presence of the disease. A change in behavior can be prompted without witnessing the disease first hand, but by being informed about it through others.” [2]

In a 2010 study that aims to identify awareness, attitudes, and practices amongst the public in a Middle Eastern country, researchers concluded that “High concern did not translate into higher compliance with precautionary recommendationsFrequent communication between physicians and the public is recommended to help dispel myths.” [3] 

Thus, awareness plays a significant role in the way people react to infectious diseases, from online media to offline media and word-of-mouth. 

Where to get your information

With the abundance of misinformation online, it becomes even more difficult than before to identify correct data. Consequently, the Department of Health (Abu Dhabi) launched a complete COVID-19 awareness platform, in collaboration with Saal, to keep the public informed and to answer all related questions about the disease on one platform.

 

  • COVID-19 data and numbers

 

Users can have their questions answered by a 24/7 bilingual smart advisor and find all the latest guidelines, statistics, and international data through interactive maps, charts, and tables: https://doh.saal.ai/ 

 

  • COVID-19 learning platform 

 

Users can also test their knowledge through a variety of quizzes and learn from informative courses about the COVID-19, quarantine, self-isolation, and more: https://doh.saal.ai/quiz/?lang=english

This platform offers a personalized learning path to track progress. Users can access several educational courses that include topics ranging from general knowledge about the COVID-19, other coronaviruses such as SARS and MERS, up to isolation, and the different types of quarantine.

Concluding notes

As the world goes back to a new ‘normal,’ awareness remains imperative in containing the pandemic, as suggested by scientific research based on previous epidemics and pandemics. Access the COVID-19 learning platform here: https://doh.saal.ai/quiz/?lang=english

Sources: 

[1]  Zuo, et al. “Effect of Awareness Programs on the Epidemic Outbreaks with Time Delay.” Abstract and Applied Analysis, Hindawi, 13 July 2014, www.hindawi.com/journals/aaa/2014/940841/

[2] Funk, Sebastian, et al. “The Spread of Awareness and Its Impact on Epidemic Outbreaks.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, National Academy of Sciences, 21 Apr. 2009, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2672559/#

[3] Balkhy, H.H., Abolfotouh, M.A., Al-Hathlool, R.H. et al. Awareness, attitudes, and practices related to the swine influenza pandemic among the Saudi public. BMC Infect Dis 10, 42 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2334-10-42