Social Network Analysis on the Mobility of Three Vulnerable Population Subgroups: Domestic Workers, Flight Crews, and Sailors during the COVID-19 Pandemic in Hong Kong
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Background: Domestic workers, flight crews, and sailors are three vulnerable population subgroups who were required to travel due to occupational demand in Hong Kong during the COVID-19 pandemic. Objective: The aim of this study was to explore the social networks among three vulnerable population subgroups and capture temporal changes in their probability of being exposed to SARS-CoV-2 via mobility. Methods: We included 652 COVID-19 cases and utilized Exponential Random Graph Models to build six social networks: one for the cross-sectional cohort, and five for the temporal wave cohorts, respectively. Vertices were the three vulnerable population subgroups. Edges were shared scenarios where vertices were exposed to SARS-CoV-2. Results: The probability of being exposed to a COVID-19 case in Hong Kong among the three vulnerable population subgroups increased from 3.38% in early 2020 to 5.78% in early 2022. While domestic workers were less mobile intercontinentally compared to flight crews and sailors, domestic workers were 1.81-times in general more likely to be exposed to SARS-CoV-2. Conclusions: Vulnerable populations with similar ages and occupations, especially younger domestic workers and flight crew members, were more likely to be exposed to SARS-CoV-2. Social network analysis can be used to provide critical information on the health risks of infectious diseases to vulnerable populations.