Potential impact of earthquakes during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic


The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic caused a human and economic impact of unprecedented magnitude in contemporary history. In an effort to reduce the rate of infection, most governments implemented measures to increase social distancing and to strengthen the capacity of the healthcare system. The occurrence of earthquakes coincident with the pandemic may prevent the effective practice of such measures, and consequently cause an increase in the virus spread. This study analyzes the potential impact that seismic events may have on the infection rate within regions afflicted by both epidemics and earthquakes and explores open software packages that can be employed to simulate the impact of future destructive earthquakes on the spread of an emerging virus. Recent data on the number of confirmed cases at the national or subnational level were combined with a global seismic hazard and risk map to produce a combined index. This index highlights regions where preparedness and contingency plans should be developed to account for the possibility of COVID-19 outbreaks due to the earthquake impact.

Earthquake Spectra, 37(1)

Example figure

A plot showing the increase in Covid cases over time due to two different earthquake scenarios affecting Portugal
Forecasting of the (aggregated) number of cumulative COVID-19 cases for the three regions (Lisbon and the Tagus Valley, Alentejo, and Algarve) considering the displaced population from the M5.7 onshore (left) and M8.7 offshore (right) earthquake scenarios. The darker line represents the mean results, while the lighter lines represent individual simulations.

Nicole Paul
Nicole Paul
PhD Student

Researching population displacement in disasters