Sousa, José; JoãoBarata; van Woerdend, Hugo C; Kee, Frank

Mobile health (mHealth) technologies, such as symptom tracking apps, are crucial for coping with the global pandemic crisis by providing near real-time, in situ information for the medical and governmental response. However, in such a dynamic and diverse environment, methods are still needed to support public health decision-making. This paper uses the lens of strong structuration theory to investigate networks of COVID-19 symptoms in the Belfast metropolitan area. A self-supervised machine learning method measuring information entropy was applied to the Northern Ireland COVIDCare app. The findings reveal: (1) relevant stratifications of disease symptoms, (2) particularities in health-wealth networks, and (3) the predictive potential of artificial intelligence to extract entangled knowledge from data in COVID-related apps. The proposed method proved to be effective for near real-time in-situ analysis of COVID-19 progression and to focus and complement public health decisions. Our contribution is relevant to an understanding of SARS-COV-2 symptom entanglements in localised environments. It can assist decision-makers in designing both reactive and proactive health measures that should be personalised to the heterogeneous needs of different populations. Moreover, near real-time assessment of pandemic symptoms using digital technologies will be critical to create early warning systems of emerging SARS-CoV-2 strains and predict the need for healthcare resources.