Researchers develop new tool to visualize worldwide trends in coronavirus infection

Reviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor)Jul 6 2020

Austrian researchers have developed a simple tool to show the trends in coronavirus infections over time around the world. The CSH Corona Traffic Light helps people to make their own well-informed decisions.

In times of uncertainty, people not only need reliable information. Data must also be presented in a simple and understandable way.

Researchers at the Complexity Science Hub Vienna (CSH) developed a tool that uses the well-known traffic light system to visualize worldwide trends in coronavirus infection. The “CSH Corona Traffic Light” shows countries in green, yellow, or red based on the confirmed cases within the past two weeks.

A country is depicted in green if less than 1 person per 10,000 inhabitants is tested positive. Yellow shows countries with 1 to <10 positively tested cases per 10,000 inhabitants, red are countries with 10 or more cases per 10,000. A curve shows the number of “new infections,” calculated from the difference between the positively tested persons today and 14 days ago.

With a slider, users can move in time—all the way back to a “green” world in February. The tool is based on data provided by Johns Hopkins University.

“With the Corona Traffic Light people see where they can travel more safely,” says Stefan Thurner (CSH, MedUni Vienna), one of the developers of the tool.

“Travelling to or within countries colored in green is considered to be rather safe. I would be cautious with yellow countries—and red is out of the question,” states the complexity scientist.

Second wave ahead

During the last couple of days, more and more countries turned from green to yellow again, even countries that previously managed to keep the virus under control, such as Israel or the Western Balkans.

We must face it: The second wave is just around the corner or already beginning in many parts of the world.”

Stefan Thurner, Complexity Science Hub Vienna, MedUni Vienna

As the holiday season is about to start, it becomes even more important to closely watch these developments over time.

The worldwide Traffic Light is the expansion of an earlier project. “We first developed the Traffic Light for Austria,” says Stefan Thurner. The Austrian “Corona-Ampel” shows infection trends in much more detail, broken down to every political district in Austria. The tool was in great demand right from the start.

“People really want to know what is going on in their region. If we provide reliable information in an easy way, they can make their own well-informed decisions,” Thurner concludes.

advice they may provide.