More effective strategies are required to strengthen public awareness of COVID-19: Evidence from Google Trends

J Glob Health. 2020 Jun;10(1):011003. doi: 10.7189/jogh.10.011003.


Background: The outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has posed stress on the health and well-being of both Chinese people and the public worldwide. Global public interest in this new issue largely reflects people's attention to COVID-19 and their willingness to take precautionary actions. This study aimed to examine global public awareness of COVID-19 using Google Trends.

Methods: Using Google Trends, we retrieved public query data for terms of "2019-nCoV + SARS-CoV-2 + novel coronavirus + new coronavirus + COVID-19 + Corona Virus Disease 2019" between the 31st December 2019 and the 24th February 2020 in six major English-speaking countries, including the USA, the UK, Canada, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. Dynamic series analysis demonstrates the overall change trend of relative search volume (RSV) for the topic on COVID-19. We compared the top-ranking related queries and sub-regions distribution of RSV about COVID-19 across different countries. The correlation between daily search volumes on the topic related to COVID-19 and the daily number of people infected with SARS-CoV-2 was analyzed.

Results: The overall search trend of RSV regarding COVID-19 increased during the early period of observing time and reached the first apex on 31st January 2020. A shorter response time and a longer duration of public attention to COVID-19 was observed in public from the USA, the UK, Australia, and Canada, than that in Ireland and New Zealand. A slightly positive correlation between daily RSV about COVID-19 and the daily number of confirmed cases was observed (P < 0.05). People across countries presented a various interest to the RSV on COVID-19, and public awareness of COVID-19 was different in various sub-regions within countries.

Conclusions: The results suggest that public response time to COVID-19 was different across countries, and the overall duration of public attention was short. The current study reminds us that governments should strengthen the publicity of COVID-19 nationally, strengthen the public's vigilance and sensitivity to COVID-19, inform public the importance of protecting themselves with enough precautionary measures, and finally control the spread of COVID-19 globally.

MeSH terms

  • Betacoronavirus
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Data Mining
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Global Health
  • Health Communication*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Pandemics*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology*
  • Public Health*
  • SARS-CoV-2