We believe that to better understand the phenomenon coronavirus and the dynamics triggered by it at a communicative and information level, it is good to move away from a subjective point of view and observe it from a broader perspective. We are allowed to leverage the tools of the online world. Let's look at the trends recorded by Google, a search engine and today a vehicle through which many of us interface with the contents and resources of the Web.
Italy and the coronavirus: what the research tells us
We do this by examining the "coronavirus" key that many have found themselves typing in the last few days. The Trends platform is useful to us first of all to understand interest fluctuations towards the keyword. Let's see together some graphs that photograph the trend. The first, below, tells us that considering the entire last month in Italy the peak in the volume of searches was detected on Sunday 23 February, in the days immediately following the appearance of the first cases of contagion found in the country.
The main interest is located in Lombardy. Curiously the second of the regions it is not Veneto (which appears only in sixth position), but Emilia-Romagna which in the north borders the province of Lodi where there are ten of the eleven municipalities included in the so-called red area. Proximity, therefore, as a determining factor. Piedmont, Tuscany and Valle d'Aosta follow. In relation to the latter, it should be noted that the data refers to the percentage attributed to a search key compared to all those recorded in a specific geographical area, not to the absolute count of the queries.
Narrowing the analyzed period to the last week only and focusing attention exclusively on the Lombardy the pinnacle is in the early morning of Monday 24 February.
The places where searches on the topic were most frequent (in relation to the volume of all queries sent to Google) are Pizzighettone (CR), Stradella (PV), Lodi Vecchio (LO), Romano di Lombardia (BG) and Castelleone (CR). Codogno, where the first Italian case was recorded, is only in 29th place.
Completely similar dynamics for the Veneto.
In this case, the highest percentage of queries was detected in Lozzo Atestino (PD), Treponti (PD), Montegrotto Terme (PD), Abano Terme (PD) and Vigonza (PD). Vo ', common in the region with the first infected patient, is not in the top 50.
The Italians related to the coronavirus theme by passing through Google in a rather uniform way, without tangible differences between one region and another, with some minor exceptions. In Liguriafor example, the maximum volume of searches was recorded a few hours in advance, already on Sunday 23 February.
Later instead in Puglia, with a peak on the evening of Wednesday 26 February, in conjunction with the circulation of news on the first case found in the region. In the afternoon our editorial staff had assisted the ASL Taranto Prevention Department in correcting a non-compliant procedure relating to data collection.
Amuchina and prevention
Among related research it stands out "Antiseptic". Many those who turned to Google in order to consult tutorials to make it at home or to find where to buy it online, triggering an inevitable surge in prices. In this regard, it is interesting to observe how the keyword was typed more in the regions not initially affected by the spread of the disease: Campania, Puglia, Calabria, Umbria and Sicily.
Coronavirus in the world: research and contagion
Moving further from home and from the rough week that we have lived in Italy we can observe a different trend. The chart below examines the searches around the world carried out in the last seven days. Interest in the keyword has grown, albeit with significant fluctuations, until it reaches its peak in the late evening yesterday, Thursday 27 February. It is not surprising considering that it is precisely when we began to persistently speak of an important number of cases ascertained internationally, in other European countries and beyond.
A zoom back in time, over the past month, photographs the recent even better growth of queries.
Assuming that for well known reasons Google is not the most used search engine in China, it may also be interesting to report the trend detected in the territory in which the pathogen SARS-CoV-2 the person responsible for the disease was initially detected between the end of December and the beginning of this year.
Let's now look at one of the data provided by the contagion map (original source) compiled and constantly updated on the basis of the data provided by theWorld Health Organization. The yellow line represents the number of confirmed cases on Chinese territory, the yellow line the diffusion of COVID-19 in the rest of the world and the green line the volume of patients recovered.
Finally, we conclude the analysis by superimposing on the graph the one seen above and relating to the volumes of searches on the keyword detected by Google (blue line). A data emerges clearly and clearly: interest in the topic has not grown at the same pace as the spread of the infection. From here we can start to reflect on how the dynamics of the online world are able to alter the perception of a risk, whatever its nature.
Is coronavirus still in the news?
So what are the conclusions? First of all, with regard to Italy,interest against the key "coronavirus" is progressively waning in recent days in almost the whole territory, albeit with some exceptions. Perhaps a consequence of a more relaxed climate than that felt between the end of last week and the current one, when we started talking about the epidemic in the country, a dynamic that we have already analyzed in a previous article by examining interactions with social networks. Statements by representatives and institutional bodies that have taken on a less alarming tone in recent days may also have contributed.
We do not believe we have the necessary skills to label what has happened for a week now such as the assembly of unjustified fears and we don't think we can define the trend these days as a dangerous one relaxation of tension. We do not judge the phenomenon, we just observe it through the lens of objectivity that the tools of the online world offer us, in this case the search engine that today conveys most of the queries by bridging the information and its users.