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Eindhoven-based start-up Fruitpunch AI is developing a system that uses artificial intelligence to analyze how effective the Dutch government’s policy is in combating Corona virus infections.

Over the next two months, the platform from the AI engineers will collect data that will provide insight into how citizens have behaved in response to measures taken to stop the disease. In addition, the platform is to analyze the impact of the pandemic on the economy. It will do this by comparing the increase in the number of Corona patients with the fall in stock market prices, among other things. On this basis, it is possible to assess the probability of a recession as a result of the pandemic. And predict how deep it might become.

Medical consequences of recession

In turn, the effects of recession have an impact on citizens’ health and well-being. Due to loss of work, income, exposure to stress, debt, cardiovascular disease and so on.

A relationship between these various trends has already been proven by scientists. They’ve previously published articles on this subject in e.g. the renowned medical scientific journal The Lancet. The researchers also aim to relate this to the government’s anti-Corona policy.

Patterns involved in the spread of infection

The idea to start this ‘AI Fruitpunch against covid-19‘ challenge came from the AI Fruitpunch founders Buster Franken and Vincent Fokker. “The reason was that we had to cancel our events because there were going to be more than a thousand people,” says Buster Franken. “Back then, that was the limit that the government had announced for the number of visitors when deciding whether an event could go ahead or not. I thought that was strange. It’s unclear as to what risks it could reduce. I then googled to find out more about how the pandemic was unfolding. I saw pretty quickly that there are patterns in the rates of infection.”

How many infected people does it take before the snowball effect takes off?

As an example, Franken’s conclusion is that the Chinese government has failed in its policy to combat the disease. “You see that the number of people infected with Corona has never increased as rapidly in any other country as it did in China. That’s now dropping because it’s getting warmer. But in actual fact, the Chinese government has failed.”

“What I want to know is how many infected people are causing a snowball effect which makes it impossible to control the pandemic. Plus there aren’t nearly enough beds in ICUs for people to recover. If you know that, you are then able to communicate effectively as a government. You can say to the population: we are taking certain measures to prevent infection because we now have so many patients. ‘We don’t want to reach the level that will cause an exponential increase in the number of infections beyond what hospitals are capable of coping with.’ If you say that, people will have a better understanding of why they need to stay away from certain events as much as possible.”

Global research into effective Corona policies

In two weeks time, Fruitpunch will embark on a second challenge in collaboration with Omdena, a Silicon Valley-based global platform for AI engineers, a partner organization of AI Fruitpunch. Subsequently, the AI engineers will analyze the effects of government measures around the world on the rise in the number of Corona patients. This will likely also reveal the effect of having children at home compared to the effect of letting them go to school. This is a discussion point in The Netherlands. Since in other countries children are obliged to stay home. Like in neighboring such as Belgium and France.

“You can see that there wasn’t a game plan in place for the outbreak of a virus. And that every country is doing something different,” says Franken. “Which in itself is pretty ridiculous seeing that something like this is likely to happen.”

The fact that the World Health Organization (WHO) does not have any such plan in place is not surprising, Franken says, considering it has no say in the health policies of the various member countries. “But we do intend to cooperate with the WHO on this.”

Cooperation with WHO

Franken adds that the data that’s needed to make the various analyses is fairly easy to find. Both economic and medical. “We’re using the WHO updates. Along with an earlier study of the relationship between a recession and public health in Brazil. We adjust the results to the variances between Brazil and the other countries. For example, such as such as public access to healthcare.

Read all our other IO articles on the COVID-19 here.