Two data collection endeavours by the South African government aim to improve Covid-19 case tracing and help keep the population informed about their risk of contracting the virus. This as the nation enters into a Level 1 lockdown, which will see the borders opened and increased domestic movement.
Last night President Cyril Ramaphosa encouraged the nation to download the newly launched Covid Alert South Africa app, for those who have smartphones. Already boasting over a 100,000 downloads on Google Play, the app aims to encourage people to disclose their positive status anonymously in order to alert those in their vicinity that they may have been in contact with a case in the last 14 days.
According to Ramaphosa, the app has been zero-rated by mobile networks, so you can download it without any data costs.
Using Bluetooth technology, the app will alert any user if they have been in close contact with any other user who has tested positive for novel coronavirus in the past 14 days, he said in his address. But the app is said to be completely anonymous, does not gather any personal information, nor does it track anybody’s location.
The app sends notifications to users who have been in close contact with other app users who have confirmed their positive status. As such, the user can only receive these notifications if they come into contact with other users of the app. It then offers guidance to those alerted on what to do to protect their community and themselves.
The app uses Bluetooth to determine how close or how long a user has been in contact with a positive user. It is not clear if one has to manually ensure their Bluetooth is on at all times. It goes to great lengths to ensure the user that their location will not be tracked by the government.
Around 40% of South Africa’s population has smartphones, according to predictive data published by Statista.com.
Ramaphosa has also announced the department of health’s WhatsApp and SMS systems for people without smartphones to provide them with test results and alert them to any possible exposure to the virus.
“Contact tracing is an important preventative measure to protect yourself and your close family and friends. We will be undertaking a nationwide survey to assess the actual levels of infection within society. This survey – known as a seroprevalence survey – uses antibody tests to see if a person has been exposed to the coronavirus.”
The nationwide study would allow scientists to estimate the extent of asymptomatic infections and immunity within the population as well as to better understand the transmission patterns of the virus.
“We continue to maintain our health care capacity to ensure that we are able to manage any possible outbreaks of infections effectively, and to ensure that everyone receives the care they need,” he said.