The rapid spread of COVID-19 around the world had a significant impact on daily life. As in other countries, measures were taken in Portugal to combat the exponential increase of cases, such as curfews and the use of masks. Thus, in parallel with the direct consequences on health and the healthcare sector, the pandemic also caused changes in human behavior from a sociological viewpoint.
The objective of this dissertation is to attain a perception of the reality concerning COVID-19. For this purpose, real-time data was extracted from three sources, two of them being social media platforms – Twitter and Reddit – and the other one being Público, a Portuguese online newspaper. The adopted approach, based on topic modelling and sentiment analysis, was validated within the Portugal context, concerning data over a period of one year, but it can equally be employed in similar situations and other countries and provide decision-making support.
After the data extracting, it was prepared for application of natural language processing (NLP) tools specific to the Portuguese language, which can represent a challenge due to the lexical richness. With the gathered information, a dashboard was built, with the purpose of gaining insights on the COVID-19 pandemic in Portugal. It was concluded that the topics discussed on social media reflect the events related to the pandemic. In a final stage, these dashboards were evaluated by public health experts, who highlighted the potential of the results obtained. The data and dashboards will be made available to the scientific community upon request.