COVID-19 data visualizations by Center for Investigative Journalism of Serbia

The Center for Investigative Journalism of Serbia (CINS) monitors the development of coronavirus in Serbia and its impact on the lives of people since the beginning of the pandemic. Since there is a lot of data in some of the stories, we produced different data visualizations to make it more simple for our readers. We collected and visualized data to inform the public in Serbia and to make it simpler for them to understand.

Lack of transparency was one of the characteristics of the pandemic in Serbia, especially in the early stage. The Serbian government attempted to restrict reporting on the coronavirus and has enacted a Conclusion according to which the only ones authorized to give information about coronavirus are the prime minister, the Crisis Headquarters chairperson, and the individuals authorized by said headquarters. That Conclusion was revoked quickly, but it shows that gathering information was a crucial job for journalists.

This is why, since the beginning of the epidemic, we publish official data on the number of people tested, confirmed new cases, hospitalized, people on respirators, and deceased. All of our visualizations were updated regularly and people can download all the data. We gather and analyze official data from the Ministry of Health's official website in one place and make it transparent for citizens of Serbia and abroad.

Since the appearance of the first cases in Serbia, there has been an ongoing discussion on the number of ventilators, the medical equipment designed to assist breathing which is necessary for the event of an epidemic. We've gathered the data on the official number of ventilators in each hospital, town, and district, and showed it through maps and data visualizations in a short period.

Also, we've sent 79 FOIA requests to health institutions, in order to get data and give the answer to citizens whether the hospitalized and deceased COVID-19 patients had been vaccinated and if they had, what vaccine they had received. We analyzed the data and showed it through visualizations since our institutions (even though they were encouraging people to get vaccinated) weren't giving any information to the citizens.

Some of our stories were not translated into English, but I think, considering the topic and the difficulty of gathering information, they are relevant as well. We were tracking the vaccination course and showed how many people were vaccinated and which vaccines people chose. Also, we published different maps with embedded locations, so people could find the nearest COVID hospital and vaccination location.

All the data mentioned above was crucial for people to make informed decisions, but institutions have been hiding them. Just obtaining the data was a lot harder than in most countries, and many of our readers were reaching out and asking different questions concerning vaccination, COVID-19 rules, etc. We are not experts in medicine and didn't provide any tips, but that shows that our data was valuable to them enough that they found us reliable to ask. That is why this is not just about collecting data and creating visualizations but about informing people in times of crisis.