Identification of superspreading environment under COVID-19 through human mobility data

Becky P. Y. LOO, Ka Ho TSOI, Paulina P. Y. WONG, Poh Chin LAI

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


COVID-19 reaffirms the vital role of superspreaders in a pandemic. We propose to broaden the research on superspreaders through integrating human mobility data and geographical factors to identify superspreading environment. Six types of popular public facilities were selected: bars, shopping centres, karaoke/cinemas, mega shopping malls, public libraries, and sports centres. A historical dataset on mobility was used to calculate the generalized activity space and space-time prism of individuals during a pre-pandemic period. Analysis of geographic interconnections of public facilities yielded locations by different classes of potential spatial risk. These risk surfaces were weighed and integrated into a "risk map of superspreading environment" (SE-risk map) at the city level. Overall, the proposed method can estimate empirical hot spots of superspreading environment with statistical accuracy. The SE-risk map of Hong Kong can pre-identify areas that overlap with the actual disease clusters of bar-related transmission. Our study presents first-of-its-kind research that combines data on facility location and human mobility to identify superspreading environment. The resultant SE-risk map steers the investigation away from pure human focus to include geographic environment, thereby enabling more differentiated non-pharmaceutical interventions and exit strategies to target some places more than others when complete city lockdown is not practicable.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4699
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Early online date25 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 25 Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

We would like to thank all panellists and participants of COVID-19 and Geography seminar series for their support and insights in inspiring this research.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


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