Yesterday South Africa had its first confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country, prompting lots of frantic online searches as to how to prevent infection. It also unexpectedly resulted in a spike in the cost of face masks, as well as a shortage of supply at many local retailers.

Price gouging aside, looking at the COVID-19 outbreak from a technology perspective, we’ve seen several organisations create online tools for people to better track the spread of the virus, along with receive up-to-the-minute updates as to the situations in their own countries.

These tools are available locally too, so we’ve highlighted some of the best ways that South Africans can monitor the spread of the coronavirus, both in SA and abroad, as well as the technology and information that powers these tools.

Visual aids

Two of the best, and easiest to understand, tools we’ve seen to date relate to mapping. More specifically it is the live global map created by mapping specialists ArcGIS (pictured after the break) thanks to data from the Johns Hopkins University, and a routinely updated infographic created by Foreign Policy.

Both tools pull in data from the World Health Organisation (WHO), Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in the US and China’s National Health Commission (NHC).

The ArcGIS version provides a slightly more data rich view of the spread of the virus, drilling down into specific countries, as well as the confirmed infections and deaths across the globe and per country.

One of the more interesting statistics that arcGIS is mapping is the confirmed recoveries from COVID-19, which certainly offers a bit more hope than the morbid reporting and intense fear mongering we’ve seen of late.

Switching to Foreign Policy’s variant (pasted below), and while it is not as data-dense, it does provide an easy to read format. What we like about their site in particular though, is the number of coronavirus-related stories that are published.

These not only look at the virus’ spread on a global scale, but also how specific governments are responding to the outbreak. As such it is interesting to see how approaches to COVID-19 differs from country to country.

Up to date

Shifting away from live maps, entities both in South Africa and abroad are doing a solid job of keeping citizens informed and cutting through a lot of the misinformation that lands on social media.

If you want the most timeous updates, we’ve found the WHO’s situation reports (PDF) to be very effective. They provide a global overview of the epidemic, along with new countries where COVID-19 has confirmed cases. There are also recommendations as to how to prevent infection, with the WHO dispelling any rumours about the virus’ spread and prevention too.

A local resource that has proved helpful is the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD). Much like WHO, the organisation provides accurate updates as to the steps being taken to monitor and control the spread of COVID-19 in South Africa. The NICD also shares vital information about the virus itself and how best to prevent infection.

To stay up to date with any announcements from the NICD, we suggest following its official account on Twitter.

It was always a case of when, and not if, the coronavirus reached our shores. Now that it is here, it’s important that South Africans follow the hygiene tips outlined by government, as well as leverage the technology available and online tools at our disposal to track its spread.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]