Analysis of Collective Response Reveals that COVID-19-Related Activities Start from the End of 2019 in Mainland China

Author(s): Ji Liu, Haoyi Xiong, Jizhou Huang, Jingbo Zhou, Haiyan Jiang, Tongtong Huang, Haifeng Wang, Dejing Dou

While the COVID-19 outbreak is making an impact at a global scale, the collective response to the pandemic becomes the key to analyzing past situations, evaluating current measures, and formulating future predictions. In this paper, we analyze the public reactions to the pandemic using search engine data and mobility data from Baidu Search and Baidu Maps respectively, where we particularly pay attention to the early stage of pandemics and find early signals from the collective response to COVID-19. First, we correlate the number of confirmed cases per day to daily search queries of a large number of keywords through Dynamic Time Warping (DTW) and Detrended Cross-Correlation Analysis (DCCA), where the keywords top in the most critical days are believed the most relevant to the pandemic. We then categorize the ranking lists of keywords according to the specific regions of the search, such as Wuhan, Mainland China, the USA, and the whole world. Through the analysis on search, we succeed in identifying COVID-19 related collective response would not be earlier than the end of 2019 in Mainland China. Finally, we confirm this observation again using human mobility data, where we specifically compare the massive mobility traces, including the real-time population densities inside key hospitals and inter-city travels departing from/arriving in Wuhan, from 2018 to 2020. No significant changes have been witnessed before December, 2019.

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