A Spatiotemporal Solution to Control COVID-19 Transmission at the Community Scale for Returning to Normalcy: COVID-19 Symptom Onset Risk Spatiotemporal Analysis

Chengzhuo Tong, Wenzhong Shi, Anshu Zhang, Zhicheng Shi

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


Background: Following the recent COVID-19 pandemic, returning to normalcy has become the primary goal of global cities. The key for returning to normalcy is to avoid affecting social and economic activities while supporting precise epidemic control. Estimation models for the spatiotemporal spread of the epidemic at the refined scale of cities that support precise epidemic control are limited. For most of 2021, Hong Kong has remained at the top of the “global normalcy index” because of its effective responses. The urban-community-scale spatiotemporal onset risk prediction model of COVID-19 symptom has been used to assist in the precise epidemic control of Hong Kong. Objective: Based on the spatiotemporal prediction models of COVID-19 symptom onset risk, the aim of this study was to develop a spatiotemporal solution to assist in precise prevention and control for returning to normalcy. Methods: Over the years 2020 and 2021, a spatiotemporal solution was proposed and applied to support the epidemic control in Hong Kong. An enhanced urban-community-scale geographic model was proposed to predict the risk of COVID-19 symptom onset by quantifying the impact of the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 variants, vaccination, and the imported case risk. The generated prediction results could be then applied to establish the onset risk predictions over the following days, the identification of high–onset-risk communities, the effectiveness analysis of response measures implemented, and the effectiveness simulation of upcoming response measures. The applications could be integrated into a web-based platform to assist the antiepidemic work. Results: Daily predicted onset risk in 291 tertiary planning units (TPUs) of Hong Kong from January 18, 2020, to April 22, 2021, was obtained from the enhanced prediction model. The prediction accuracy in the following 7 days was over 80%. The prediction results were used to effectively assist the epidemic control of Hong Kong in the following application examples: identified communities within high–onset-risk always only accounted for 2%-25% in multiple epidemiological scenarios; effective COVID-19 response measures, such as prohibiting public gatherings of more than 4 people were found to reduce the onset risk by 16%-46%; through the effect simulation of the new compulsory testing measure, the onset risk was found to be reduced by more than 80% in 42 (14.43%) TPUs and by more than 60% in 96 (32.99%) TPUs. Conclusions: In summary, this solution can support sustainable and targeted pandemic responses for returning to normalcy. Faced with the situation that may coexist with SARS-CoV-2, this study can not only assist global cities in responding to the future epidemics effectively but also help to restore social and economic activities and people’s normal lives.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere36538
JournalJMIR Public Health and Surveillance
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023


  • COVID-19
  • COVID-19 symptom onset
  • precise prevention and control
  • return to normalcy
  • risk prediction
  • symptom

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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