Street images classification according to COVID-19 risk in Lima, Peru: a convolutional neural networks feasibility analysis

Rodrigo M. Carrillo-Larco, Manuel Castillo-Cara, Jose Francisco Hernández Santa Cruz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Contribution to Journal)peer-review


OBJECTIVES: During the COVID-19 pandemic, convolutional neural networks (CNNs) have been used in clinical medicine (eg, X-rays classification). Whether CNNs could inform the epidemiology of COVID-19 classifying street images according to COVID-19 risk is unknown, yet it could pinpoint high-risk places and relevant features of the built environment. In a feasibility study, we trained CNNs to classify the area surrounding bus stops (Lima, Peru) into moderate or extreme COVID-19 risk. DESIGN: CNN analysis based on images from bus stops and the surrounding area. We used transfer learning and updated the output layer of five CNNs: NASNetLarge, InceptionResNetV2, Xception, ResNet152V2 and ResNet101V2. We chose the best performing CNN, which was further tuned. We used GradCam to understand the classification process. SETTING: Bus stops from Lima, Peru. We used five images per bus stop. PRIMARY AND SECONDARY OUTCOME MEASURES: Bus stop images were classified according to COVID-19 risk into two labels: moderate or extreme. RESULTS: NASNetLarge outperformed the other CNNs except in the recall metric for the moderate label and in the precision metric for the extreme label; the ResNet152V2 performed better in these two metrics (85% vs 76% and 63% vs 60%, respectively). The NASNetLarge was further tuned. The best recall (75%) and F1 score (65%) for the extreme label were reached with data augmentation techniques. Areas close to buildings or with people were often classified as extreme risk. CONCLUSIONS: This feasibility study showed that CNNs have the potential to classify street images according to levels of COVID-19 risk. In addition to applications in clinical medicine, CNNs and street images could advance the epidemiology of COVID-19 at the population level.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere063411
Pages (from-to)e063411
JournalBMJ open
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • COVID-19


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