As the world is thrust into the midst of a deadly pandemic, we look at the effect technology has had on the way we manage global outbreaks. Could AI have helped prevent the outbreak of the coronavirus? And how did China create a fully functional hospital in just 10 days? It’s time to terabyte out of the latest tech news.
31st December: BlueDot warn their customers to avoid Wuhan
Before we look at the current devastation happening around the world because of the coronavirus, let’s roll things back right to the beginning. A week before the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced the coronavirus outbreak to the public, a Canadian AI company released information to their clients predicting that an imminent disease outbreak was going to strike Wuhan. The AI algorithm scanned huge medical data sets from around the world to determine high risk factors and areas. The bot did what thousands of medical experts across the world didn’t do… it simply looked.
2nd February: Coronavirus hospital opens
In an effort to localise treatment, China undertook one of the quickest construction feats of the past century. The goal, to build 2 new hospitals in Wuhan that could each hold 1,000 beds. Sounds easy enough, now put it together in the middle of a pandemic. Well that’s exactly what the Chinese workmen managed on the outskirts of Wuhan city. It only took 10 days to construct the 645,000-square-foot building. Around 7,000 engineers, carpenters, electricians, and other specialists were brought in from around the country to speed up the process. The new two-floor facility was handed over to the army last Sunday and will be staffed with 1,400 military medics, including some with experience dealing with Sars and Ebola. When asked about their planning and response for the outbreak, Chinese authorities revealed that the facilities were modelled on the Xiaotangshan hospital in Beijing, which was built from prefabricated structures in barely a week to treat patients infected by Sars in 2003.
3rd February: America impose travel restrictions to China
Never one to shy away from a bit of controversy, this week America began implementing new travel rules to travel routes from China. They have announced plans to redirect any flight returning from China to 11 designated airports across the country. Considering America has a total of 5087 airports and covers an area of 25 million km², this could have a huge impact for people traveling to the country. Earlier this week it was announced that over 800 AI and data experts from China were left unable to attend Americas annual AAAI conference, the largest AI conference in the world, due to the travel restrictions. It seems almost ironic that the AI industry has been made to suffer despite it potentially being the solution to all future diseases.