How Artificial Intelligence is Helping in The Fight Against COVID-19 Pandemic

by Megha Narang - 21 April, 2020, 12:00 4233 Views 0 Comment


Vladimir Putin once said, “whichever country leads in Artificial Intelligence (AI) will eventually lead the world dynamics”. AI is a vital tool when talking about COVID-19. But what exactly AI is. AI is a field of computer science that works like humans as humans are the smartest creature. AI incorporates various elements – Statistical Learning, which includes Speech Recognition and Natural Language Processing (NLP). Symbolic Learning, which includes Image processing. Supervised Learning, suppose you ask a machine to recognise your friend you will have to feed data. Unsupervised Learning, when the machine has to work without data. For example, identifying Celestial objects in the universe via trial and error method. 

Machine learning is the most potent, pattern recognition being the main feature, as machines are better at it. The human brain is a network of neutrons which provides the cognitive capacity to machines. 

COVID-19 which has been the talk of the century, first identified in Wuhan, China in December 2019, and was declared as a global “pandemic” by WHO on 11 February 2020. Though a similar type of pandemic occurred during the Napoleon war and there was no AI model to prevent it from spreading or to cure it but in the current scenario, AI plays a very vital role in recognising and preventing COVID-19.  

AI was used during 2015 outbreak of Zika Virus. AI Models are being revised and new data is being fed to prevent the world from COVID-19. One of the experiments is being held in Carnegie Mellon University, where algorithms are retrained to work upon COVID-19.

According to the Chairman of Alibaba, Jack Ma, “AI competition could lead to war in the future” and that is about to happen in the near future.

Extensive Use of AI

AI in the current realm is being used in 5 areas: i) Early alarms, notifications, ii) data dashboards, iii) medical and prognostic diagnosis, iv) cure therapy, and v) social control.

A Canadian based start-up, Blue Dot, has gained momentum in the identification of the symptoms of COVID-19. It was able to predict the spread of the virus on 31st December 2019 however, USA based start-up, HealthMap, was able to predict the spread of the virus one month prior on 30th November. Blue Dot, is able to help and can out predict the infectious diseases in humans.

Identification and diagnosis of COVID-19 can also be done via AI, easing the burden on the radiologists. CT scan and X – rays are costly and time-consuming so as to cumbersome the process, certain mechanisms can be used. According to the researchers, data of lung condition can be used to get the X–ray of the chest to diagnose with an AI mechanism called ‘COVID – Net’.

AI Models are useful when it comes to medicines and diagnosis. To find cure, older drugs are being repurposed and on the other hand, new drugs and vaccines are being tried via AI Models.

‘Exscientia’ based in Oxford, is the first to put AI drug into the human trial. On the contrary, a company based in Cambridge, ‘Healx’ is repurposing its AI systems to develop a cure for rare diseases.

US and South Korea scientists are of the view that deep learning should be used for commercially available antiviral drugs.

The open-access network, whose partnership aims to establish a COVID-19 identification framework for lung scans and to provide individuals with an initiative for the donation of their anonymised data, is a crucial step for human beings to pool data so that AI framework can sift lung throats. Projects like COVID-19 Open Research Dataset offers text for more than 24,000 pieces of research.


China has ‘skin in the game’ to call the shots. China already has plans to connect AI to all areas of life, however, the current situation calls for extra efforts and China already has an upper hand when it comes to AI.

China has been focusing on building AI assisted Models for identification of the disease as radiologists technique and equipment could further spread the virus so it is better to switch to AI when it comes to a Pandemic.  

How to combat COVID-19 has been the topmost priority of China since the outbreak of the virus. Managing Pandemic measures include – Scanning at the airports, religious and other public places. Infrared cameras are used so as to identify the temperature and also to look out for people whether they are wearing masks. A similar system is also being followed by the UK.

The facial recognition system of China is the most prominent tool of the Chinese Government. With the help of facial recognition authorities are able to track people whether they are following the orders of self-quarantine if not, they get recognized via facial recognition AI systems and are directly called upon by the authorities.

‘Baidu’ a Chinese firm has been most helpful when it comes to facial recognition and screen testing. The AI system by the firm has been helpful in keeping a check on 200 persons per minute. Moreover, keeping a check on temperature which should not exceed 37,3 degrees. Baidu’s Linear Fold AI tool is also being used to reduce the time-consuming process of disease prediction from 55 minutes to 27 seconds.


The latest development of India in the usage of AI has been the development of ‘Aarogya Setu’ App which helps with the identification of symptoms of COVID-19 in a person. The app goes by taking a survey of every individual, their name, age, prior health problems, etc. It helps in making sure whether a person is fit or not, facing any symptoms, the concerned person can seek help via the app. It also identifies whether any individual has contacted a person with Coronavirus earlier.  

Adding to this, India is already moving ahead with using robots as nurses in hospitals and airports in a few states and providing people masks, scanning them and spreading awareness regarding the disease.


With COVID-19 picking up a toll, this pandemic can be surpassed by using AI Models, the only vital element required is human intelligence. However, certain problems that are coming up while managing this pandemic around the world are media noise, panic and casual behaviour by people, lack of data and unbiased and manipulated data.

Israel is seeking help from its cybersecurity services to look out and identify people who are infected.

Countries like UK, South Korea, China and Taiwan are using citizen’s location via their mobile phones to keep a check on whether people are acknowledging self-quarantine.

Countries are developing AI-based apps to handle COVID-19. UK has developed a ‘C- 19’ COVID symptom tracker to gain access to high-risk areas. Similarly, South Korea has developed the ‘Corona 100 m’ app, which traces citizen’s location and alerts them if they have come in contact with an infected person. Singapore has been the most successful country in combating COVID – 19 and lessening the number of cases using the app ‘Trace Together’.

Robots and drones are another potent features of AI helping in combating COVID-19. Chinese police are using drones to disperse the crowd at public places and is using colour code based screen tester based on health condition, which works on algorithms and identifies if a person is suitable enough to enter malls, parks, metro, etc. Singapore is using robots to clean hospitals. In India, drones are being used to keep an eye on people particularly in smaller states due to lack of resources.

Megha Narang
Author is final year student of M.A. (International Relations), Amity University.

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