The science behind Pakistan's smart lockdown strategy came up with a system that can pinpoint hotspots of the coronavirus disease

Web Desk
COVID-19 hotspot is highlighted in a map generated through Artificial Intelligence.

ISLAMABAD: With COVID-19 cases continuing to rise across the country with each passing day, the federal government has initiated a "smart lockdown" whereby certain areas with a large number of coronavirus cases are cordoned off to curb the virus' spread.

Dr Umar Saif, CEO and Chief Digital Officer Jang/Geo Media Group was asked by the government to use his start-up's technological prowess to create a system whereby the strategy can be executed.

Dr Umar Saif is the country's first Sitara-e-Imtiaz recipient for contribution to Information Technology. came up with a system that can pinpoint hotspots of the coronavirus disease, enabling the government to only seal selective areas rather than locking down the whole country, which would otherwise severely hamper economic activity.

How the system works is simple: Data obtained from the government's field workers, who use smartphones to record them, is used to generate sophisticated mathematical and epidemiological analysis.

Spatial analysis of the outbreak is done by using Artificial Intelligence on satellite imagery, which generates population maps, house counts, case incidence rates and forecasts using SEIR prediction models.

These models, in turn, use this analysis to issue real-time alerts based on clusters of patients which show signs of developing into a wider outbreak; generates patient forecasts for each hotspot; maps anticipated patients to capacity in hospitals, and mandates the field teams to report containment activities from the field.

The Prime Minister’s focal person for COVID-19, Dr. Faisal Sultan, appreciated Dr Umar Saif's contribution towards the crucial strategy, saying:

"Grateful to Umar Saif and his startup SurveyAuto for providing the platform for hotspot-based selective lockdowns in Pakistan. It is based on sophisticated mathematical & epidemiological models to pinpoint hotspots, and enables the govt to monitor containment activities in real-time.” 

Dr Umar Saif has reportedly not charged a single penny for the project. "It’s [the system] for a national cause, and, at this time, that’s all that matters for me," he said in a brief comment.

Head of Digital Pakistan Tania Aidrus, responding to Sultan's tweet, said it was important to acknowledge everyone's contribution to the national COVID-19 response regardless of affiliations.