COVID-19 death toll estimated to reach 3,900 by next Friday, according to AI modelling

Belal Alsinglawi, Western Sydney University; Mahmoud Elkhodr, CQUniversity Australia, and Omar Mubin, Western Sydney University

The coronavirus disease COVID-19 has so far caused about 3,380 deaths, infected about 98,300 people, and is significantly impacting the economy in many countries.

We used predictive analytics, a branch of artificial intelligence (AI), to forecast how many confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths can be expected in the near future.

Our method predicts that by March 13, the virus death toll will have climbed to 3,913, and confirmed cases will reach 116,250 worldwide, based on data available up to March 5.

To develop contingency plans and hopefully head off the worst effects of the coronavirus, governments need to be able to anticipate the future course of the outbreak.

This is where predictive analytics could prove invaluable. This method involves finding trends in past data, and using these insights to forecast future events. There’s currently too few Australian cases to generate such a forecast for the country.

Number crunching

As of when this article was published, our model had predicted COVID-19 infections to an accuracy of 96%, and deaths to an accuracy of 99%. To maintain this accuracy, we have to regularly update our data as the global rate of COVID-19’s spread increases or decreases.

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Based on data available up to March 5, our model predicts that by March 31 the number of deaths worldwide will surpass 4,500 and confirmed cases will reach 150,000. However, since these projections surpass our short-term window of accuracy, they shouldn’t be considered as reliable as the figures above.

At the moment, our model is best suited for short-term forecasting. To make accurate long-term forecasts, we’ll need more historical data and a better understanding of the variables impacting COVID-19’s spread.

The more historical data we acquire, the more accurate and far-reaching our forecasts can be.

How we made our predictions

To create our simulations, we extracted coronavirus data dating back to January 22, from an online repository provided by the Johns Hopkins University Centre for Systems Science and Engineering.

This time-stamped data detailed the number and locations of confirmed cases of COVID-19, including people who recovered, and those who died.

Choosing an appropriate modelling technique was integral to the reliability of our results. We used time series forecasting, a method that predicts future values based on previously observed values. This type of forecasting has proven suitable to predict future outbreaks of a disease.

We ran our simulations via Prophet (a type of time series forecasting model), and input the data using the programming language Python.

Further insight vs compromised privacy

Combining predictions generated through AI with big data, and location-based services such as GPS tracking, can provide targeted insight on the movements of people diagnosed with COVID-19.

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This information would help governments implement effective contingency plans, and prevent the virus’s spread.

We saw this happen in China, where telecommunication providers used location tracking to alert the Chinese government of the movements of people in quarantine. However, such methods raise obvious privacy issues.

Honing in on smaller areas

In our analysis, we only considered worldwide data. If localised data becomes available, we could identify which countries, cities and even suburbs are more vulnerable to COVID-19 than others.

We already know different regions are likely to experience different growth rates of COVID-19. This is because the virus’ spread is influenced by many factors, including speed of diagnoses, government response, population density, quality of public healthcare and local climate.

As the COVID-19 outbreak expands, the world’s collective response will render our model susceptible to variation. But until the virus is controlled and more is learned about it, we believe forewarned is forearmed.

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Correction: previously this article said the author’s model could predict COVID-19 infections to an accuracy of 96%, and deaths to an accuracy of 99%, up to one week into the future. This was incorrect and has been amended.The Conversation

Belal Alsinglawi, PhD Candidate in Data Science and ICT Lecturer, Western Sydney University; Mahmoud Elkhodr, Lecturer in Information and Communication Technologies, CQUniversity Australia, and Omar Mubin, Senior Lecturer in human-centred computing & human-computer interaction, Western Sydney University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Australia: Queensland – Floods Have Killed Six

The link below is to an article that reports on the current death toll for the Queensland flood disaster from ex-cyclone Oswald.

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San Bruno Disaster: Latest News

There are now seven confirmed deaths following the San Bruno gas explosion disaster in San Francisco. Sadly, the death toll may rise with six people still missing. 52 people were injured in the explosion and fire, with 37 homes destroyed and another badly damaged.

Death Toll Mounts in Chinese Earthquake

The death toll in the 6.9 magnitude earthquake that hit the Chinese province of Qinghai is fast approaching 1500 killed. The Qinghai province is located in China’s Tibetan region. Hundreds are still missing and more than 11 000 have been injured.

Damage in the region is tremendous, with many, many people homeless and facing disease, hunger and other difficulties as a consequence of this massive disaster. Thousands of homes and structures have been destroyed.

Haiti: Earthquake Tragedy

The terrible tragedy in Haiti continues to dominate world news, with fears that the death toll from the earthquake will top 200 000 deaths. 250 000 people were also injured in the earthquake and there is now a major effort to provide essential aid including food and medical provisions for the suffering Haitian population. This is a major tragedy and the world needs to respond to it – thankfully, this is happening.

The crisis will continue long after the headlines have ended, with some 2 million people having been rendered homeless as a consequence of the disaster. Millions of Haitians are at risk of illness and death as a consequence of the quake, with sanitary conditions, lack of drinking water, limited shelter, etc. These are just some of the problems that will continue to plague the poverty-stricken people of Haiti. The rebuilding process will be enormous and well out of reach of Haiti. The nation of Haiti will continue to need the assistance of the world for many years to come.

Organisations like World Vision, the Red Cross and many others, will need the continued support of governments and individuals around the world in order to continue to support and assist the victims of this earthquake. Please continue to assist by sending donations to the various aid organisations that are assisting in the work in Haiti. Over the coming days and weeks, ‘Random Thoughts’ will pass on information as to how people can continue to assist the Haitian people.


12 Christians killed, 20 churches burned in Borno rioting prompted by extremist group.

LAGOS, Nigeria, Aug. 7 (Compass Direct News) – With 12 Christians, including three pastors, confirmed killed in rioting ignited by an Islamic sect opposed to Western education, the Christian community in northern Nigeria’s Borno state is still counting its losses.

The rioting instigated by an Islamic extremist sect known as Boko Haram, which initially attacked police and government bases, left hundreds of people dead and large property losses. Sharia (Islamic law) is already in force for Muslims in 12 northern states, but the sect is fighting to have it enforced more broadly in those states and to impose it throughout Nigeria.

“We are still taking inventory of how the crisis affected our members, but so far we have confirmed some of the Christians killed and churches burnt,” Samuel Salifu, national secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), told Compass.

Rampaging members of the sect burned 20 churches before police captured and killed Boko Haram’s leader, Mohammed Yusuf. Police say Yusuf was killed “while trying to escape,” but a federal government panel is investigating allegations that security agents executed him after arresting him alive in his hideout.

The chairman of the Borno state chapter of CAN, the Rev. Yuguda Zubabai Ndurvuwa, said many Christians abducted by Boko Haram extremists were yet to be found. He noted that the Christian community usually has been hardest hit in religious uprisings in Borno and other northern states. Violence started on July 26, when armed sect members attacked a police station in Bauchi state that set off a firestorm of violence that spread to the northern states of Borno, Kano and Yobe.

Those killed in Borno include Pastor Sabo Yakubu of Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN), the Rev. Sylvester Akpan of National Evangelical Mission and the Rev. George Orji of Good News of Christ Church International, Inc.

Church buildings burned in Borno include five branches of the COCIN denomination, two Catholic churches, two Deeper Life Church buildings, two EYN (Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) buildings, and buildings of the National Evangelical Mission, Celestial Church of Christ, Elijah Apostolic Church, The Lord’s Chosen Charismatic Revival Ministries, Assemblies of God Church, Redeemed Christian Church of God, Christ for All Nations, Baptist Church and Anglican Church, all in different parts of the state.

Nigeria has almost equal numbers of Christians and Muslims, with the north dominated by Muslims and the south largely Christian. Northern Nigeria has a history of religious crisis with heavy casualties among Christians.

A Maiduguri, Borno-based journalist, Abiodun Joseph, said members of the sect kidnapped his two sons after he and his family narrowly escaped being lynched by the sect members.

“They stopped us while leaving the estate where I live, which is close to their headquarters, and threatened to shoot myself and my wife if we resisted the abduction of my two sons,” Joseph told Compass. He found his sons two days later.

“It was a very harrowing experience as we were not sure what would happen to them, but we thank God that they were not killed like others,” Joseph added.

Many other abducted Christians, he said, were killed by rioters for refusing to renounce their faith.

Facing Loss

With calm restored, Pastor Enouch Atiyaye, chaplain of the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital, said Christians in Borno who were forced to abandon their homes have been returning to “face the loss of their family members and the burning of their churches and homes.”

“There is a general feeling of despair and dejection among Christians with a high degree of uncertainty, since we don’t know what can happen next,” Atiyaye told Compass. “The fear is that the Boko Haram group has many members who have entrenched themselves in the state over the years. They disappeared during the crisis and can regroup to fight back if necessary security measures are not in place.”

Based on the attack on Christians during the Boko Haram uprising and past experiences, CAN’s Salifu said the association has lost confidence in the ability of the government to provide security for the lives and property of its members.

“If the government continues the way it has been doing, the association would have to give conditions for the co-existence of the various groups in the country” Salifu said at a press conference in Abuja, the country’s capital, on Monday (Aug. 3).

Accusing Borno Gov. Ali Modu Sheriff of complicity in the emergence of the Boko Haram group, Salifu said Christians were apprehensive that there are dangers beyond what was apparent in the sect’s uprising.

“We have no doubt in our minds that they would have perceived Christianity as a Western religion, which to them is also haraam [sin] which must also be eradicated,” he said.

At the press conference the Rev. Ladi Thompson, international coordinator of Macedonian Initiatives, a Christian Non-Governmental Organization, accused the government of ignoring warnings by Christian leaders on Boko Haram activities, which he said could have been nipped much earlier.

The governor’s press director, Usman Ciroma, dismissed CAN’s claim of complicity by Gov. Sheriff, saying that it was preposterous and laughable that the tragedy that befell the state could be trivialized in that way.

“Which politician will be so suicidal as to set a group to kill his own people?” Ciroma reportedly said.

The governor, who denied any relationship with the Islamic sect, met with Christian leaders in Borno state for the first time on Wednesday (Aug. 5), during which he disclosed plans to regulate preaching by religious leaders. For two years, according to news reports, attempts by Christian leaders to meet the governor over the plight of Christians in the state had been rebuffed.

“Government officials at the meeting tried to claim that Muslims were not more affected by the crisis, but the there is no indication that any mosque was burnt or any imam killed,” said a Christian leader at the meeting who requested anonymity.

Report from Compass Direct News