Coronavirus: Saudis have been searching Google for COVID-19 advice - and tigers

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Saudi Arabians have been searching coronavirus-related terms – as well as for TV programs and tigers – during the last month of coronavirus, according to data from Google Trends.

The new coronavirus has changed the world since first emerging in late December in China’s Wuhan, spreading into a global pandemic which has forced countries into lockdown. In Saudi Arabia, authorities have reported 4,033 cases of coronavirus, with 52 deaths, and have imposed 24-hour curfews in major cities aimed at slowing the spread of the virus.

Unsurprisingly, residents in the Kingdom have changed their online behavior in response to these new circumstances, searching for information about the virus – but also for entertainment services and cooking recipes while under lockdown.

Based on Google Trends data from the last 30 days, the most increased searches were “COVID-19” (in Arabic), “coronavirus tips,” and “thank you coronavirus helpers” – this last entry referring to the public campaign to thank key health and security workers during the crisis.

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Other rising search terms showed Saudis looking for information on the virus. Searches for “worldometer” – a live tracking site for global coronavirus numbers – have increased by 3,100 percent, while searches for “coronavirus advice” in Arabic are up 3,000 percent.

Unable to live their houses under curfew, it seems Saudi Arabians are also looking for ways to keep entertained. Searches for MBC’s entertainment platform Shahid VIP were up 1,250 percent, perhaps linked to the offer of a complimentary one-month VIP subscription to the streaming service in mid-March. In comparison, Netflix (in Arabic) had an increase of 650 percent.

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Zoom, the video call software which has boomed in popularity since the emergence of coronavirus, was up 550 percent. Houseparty, another video app to soar in users since coronavirus curfews were imposed, did not feature in the top 25 - perhaps reflecting a hit to its popularity due to allegations of users being hacked.

Less directly related to coronavirus, searches for the word “tiger” increased by 650 percent during the 30-day period. This could be in reference to a tiger in New York which was one of the first confirmed cases of an animal catching the virus, but might also refer to the breakout Netflix show “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness” which has captured the imagination of many viewers stuck at home and spawned a range of online memes.

Although the vast majority of newly popular search terms are linked to coronavirus, Saudis did search for a few topics outside of the pandemic, in a sign that it might not have engulfed every aspect of life in the Kingdom. A 4,250 percent increase in searches for the Arabic term for “Mother’s day” suggests some things are still as important as ever.

Read more: Saudi Arabia coronavirus curfew: Ten questions answered

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