23 04

Written By Farahdiba Abdullah

At the end of 2019, China was outraged by an outbreak of a novel human coronavirus (HCoV) which is a zoonotic disease, originating in Wuhan. The International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) named the virus as SARS-CoV-2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2) and the disease as COVID-19. Recent findings shows that SARS-CoV-2 is 96% identical to a bat coronavirus [1]. The scholars suggested that the disease may be transmitted from animals to human as shown in Figure 1 [2].

Figure 1. Potential transmission cycles of SARS-CoV-2.

On January 2020, it is officially confirmed that COVID-19 can be transmitted from person to person. The findings found that the patients who were infected had underlying diseases such as diabetes (20%), cardiovascular diseases (15%) and hypertension (15%) [2]. Their symptoms were mainly fever (98%), cough (70%) and fatigue (44%) [2]. By April 20, 2020 coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has had more than 2 million confirmed cases as well as 159,511 fatalities [3] while disrupting life in 206 countries including Malaysia.

Ministry of Health (MoH) recorded 84 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday (April 19), bringing the national total to 5,389 [4]. The results indicated a rise in reported cases after a steady downtrend trend two days prior to this, but the numbers are considered low when compared to higher number of recovered patients (95) [5]. The government has prepared well ahead for pandemic actions before WHO decided to declare a worldwide pandemic on March 2020. Evidently, our country has strong clinical practices such as ICU facilities, enough drugs even though there is no medical cure for this disease, enough essential supplies of protection equipment for frontliners and enough resources for conducting mass testing on the high-risk areas. Malaysia also extends Movement Control Order (MCO) to phase three until April 28, 2020 and strictly implemented social distancing that requires the commitment of the public.

In the past few weeks, Malaysia mentioned about digital technology solutions which is vital to fight against COVID-19. They include leveraging cloud and AI to enhance CT (computed tomography) image capabilities when screening potential COVID-19 patients [6], monitoring stringent temperature checks through Smart IoT Thermal Detection (SITD) solution [7], building robots for frontliner to mitigate burdens namely MediBot V1-U (POC stage) and Mak Cik Kiah 19 (MCK19) which will be tested at the Hospital Canselor Tuanku Muhriz UKM) [8], launching COVID-19 contact tracing (COVCT) app [9] and developing COVID-19 rapid test kits with Oxford team [10]. However, the government still lacks digital strategy to combat COVID-19 via automated monitoring system by using our citizens as a key sensor for delivering real-time data.

In the recent articles, the scholars has proposed AI-enabled framework for COVID-19 detection using data obtained from smartphones’ onboard sensors such as cameras, temperature, microphone and inertial sensors [11]. The proposed framework uses algorithms by utilizing smartphone sensors to diagnose the preliminary results of the coronavirus disease COVID-19 as indicated in Figure 2 [11].

Figure 2. General diagram of the proposed framework for predicting disease COVID-19.

There are four separate layers; (1) input / reading sensors’ measurements layer, (2) sensors configuration layer, (3) computing symptom disease layer and (4) predict the disease layer via multiple machine learning approaches. This solution offers a low cost and quick approach to COVID-19 detection on individuals as compared to medical Kits or CT scan methods.

Besides that, there is another automated monitoring system known as CovidSens which utilizes the concept of social-sensing to guide situational awareness of COVID-19 spread [12]. The scholars reported that the proposed concept is motivated by people who tend to actively share their state of health and experience of the COVID-19 via online social media as indicated in Figure 3 [12].

Figure 3. Tweets posted during COVID-19 outbreak and system overview.

The Tweets can be referred to identify the rate of spread of the virus by looking at the regions affected by COVID-19. Moreover, it is able to detect crowd and mass gatherings by analyzing the location and movement data from smartphones and social media posts while respecting user privacy. The government can use more than one social media as disease spread indicator for continuous monitoring on a daily basis.

In conclusion, Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data and AI are the powerful tools for the government to fight against COVID-19. AI functions such as Natural Language Processing (NLP) and computer vision applications can be useful to recognize, predict and explain COVID-19 threats and help to manage socio-economic impacts. As such, the innovations in AI technology may help to prepare our country for the next pandemic and give us clear strategies to save lives.


[1] Rodriguez-Morales, A. J., Bonilla-Aldana, D. K., Balbin-Ramon, G. J., Rabaan, A. A., Sah, R., Paniz-Mondolfi,

     A., … & Esposito, S. (2020). History is repeating itself: Probable zoonotic spillover as the cause of the 2019

     novel Coronavirus Epidemic. Infez Med28(1), 3-5.

[2] Ahmad, T., Khan, M., Haroon, T. H. M., Nasir, S., Hui, J., Bonilla-Aldana, D. K., & Rodriguez- Morales, A. J.

     (2020). COVID-19: Zoonotic aspects. Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease.

[3] https://ourworldindata.org/coronavirus

[4] http://www.moh.gov.my/index.php/pages/view/2019-ncov-wuhan

[5] https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2020/04/19/covid-19-new-daily-cases-back-on-rise-but-still-lower-than-recoveries/1858225

[6] https://sg.channelasia.tech/article/674883/huawei-strikes-covid-19-cloud-pact-ministry-health-malaysia/

[7] https://www.thestar.com.my/business/business-news/2020/04/08/mitigating-covid-19-infection-risks-at-your-premises

[8] https://www.lowyat.net/2020/210338/malaysias-universities-robots-help-covid-19-frontliners/

[9] https://www.nst.com.my/lifestyle/bots/2020/03/579950/tech-platform-covid-19-contact-tracing

[10] https://says.com/my/news/malaysian-phd-student-was-part-of-an-oxford-team-that-developed-covid-19-rapid-test-kits

[11] Maghdid, H. S., Ghafoor, K. Z., Sadiq, A. S., Curran, K., & Rabie, K. (2020). A novel ai-enabled framework

        to diagnose coronavirus covid 19 using smartphone embedded sensors: Design study. arXiv preprint


[12] Rashid, M. T., & Wang, D. (2020). CovidSens: A Vision on Reliable Social Sensing based Risk Alerting

        Systems for COVID-19 Spread. arXiv preprint arXiv:2004.04565.

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