Coronavirus Online Reaction


January 30, 2020


Predata has enabled customers in the public and private sectors to understand the immediate reaction to the Wuhan coronavirus and detect shifts in the virus’ online salience as it has spread internationally. Predata customers can continue to monitor the evolving reaction to the coronavirus using a dedicated Dashboard in Predata’s web-based platform or through Predata’s daily Predata Signal Alerts.

High Risk of Iranian Provocation To Start 2020

At the end of December 2019, Predata alerted clients that the near-term risk of provocative Iranian military activity, such as a ballistic missile test, was steadily rising. Those alerts came in the context of building tensions between Iran and the United States, which began with the killing of a U.S. contractor in Iraq. After the United States retaliated against Iran-backed militia targets, militiamen occupied the U.S. Embassy complex in Baghdad on December 31. Even though we had only observed proxy activity to that point, the Predata alerts suggested overt Iranian military activity was in the offing for early 2020.

Initial Focus on Regional Impacts

As the number of reported cases surged in China and began to spread overseas, Predata detected increased attention to economies in the region poised for negative effects from the outbreak. Online audiences were particularly focused on the economies of New Zealand, South Korea, Singapore, and Australia.

At the same time, traffic on Chinese-language pages about the health ministries in China, Japan, Thailand, and Singapore reached historic highs, reflecting likely concerns over regional contagion.

Further Investigation Reveals Early Warning Signs

In addition to our extensive data set covering geopolitical and macroeconomic risks worldwide, Predata built a dedicated signal suite to track the coronavirus. These signals measure online attention to the virus itself, the concept of pandemics, key institutions, and impacted infrastructure in major global languages.

Investigating this more specialized data set revealed that Japanese-language attention to pandemics surpassed its highest level in nearly a year on January 5, four days before the first confirmed fatality due to Wuhan coronavirus and more than a week before authorities reported the first confirmed case in Japan.

We also identified signs of concern over transit infrastructure well before major air carriers began to disrupt service in and out of China. English-language attention to China’s airports spiked to more than a one-year high on January 10. As of January 29, British Airways had cancelled daily flights to China until further notice, U.S. carriers United Airlines and American Airlines reduced their schedules through February, and Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific plans to reduce its flights to China by half through March.

What’s Next: Monitoring the Spread Beyond East Asia

Predata will continue to monitor reactions to the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus and provide updates on the dedicated coronavirus Dashboard in Predata’s web-based platform and through daily Predata Signal Alerts.

An emerging trend is increasing attention to pandemics, particularly in English, Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese), Japanese, and Southeast Asian languages. Over the coming days, we will monitor whether these concerns have spread to other regions as well.

There are some early indications that coronavirus is becoming increasingly salient outside of East Asia. Arabic, Russian, and Portuguese are currently among the major global languages with the most notable levels of interest in the virus itself.

Learn more about how Predata’s AI platform can help you stay on top of global emerging trends and impacts to be better prepared for what’s next.