Contact tracing: There’s an app for that

by Central Health-Grenada

During an interview with a citizen of South Korea as part of an online series entitled, “Covid-19 & Those Most At Risk,” Central Health-Grenada learned that South Korea uses a smartphone app to track airport arrivals who embarked from countries with high incidences of Covid-19.

This self-diagnosis mobile app allows users to record if they develop a cough, sore throat, temperature and difficulty breathing (dyspnea). In fact, you cannot leave the airport without downloading it.

All persons arriving receive a 2-page document that provides the required protocol. Instructions range from who should take a designated airport bus to who is required to be tested and it ends with the information to download the app for both Android and iPhone users. To view document – click here.

South Korea has received positive press and general respect from around the world for its quick action in stopping the initial spread of Covid-19. When asked what citizens had to do to assist with that process, Jenny Lee said she had to use the app. “I had to actually download the app about 3 weeks ago because I flew in from San Francisco. We were told to wear masks, stay inside a lot and avoid large contact with people, and report when we can to the government if we have any health issues.”

Lee went on to say, persons arriving from Europe had to go to a special facility as the outbreak was far worse than that of her destination. Meaning, they went to a quarantine area not into the general public. Lee was allowed to go to her home, which is equivalent to Grenada’s 2-week self-quarantine and instructed to put into the app, which is connected to the authorities, if she developed any of the 4 symptoms. If you do indicate that you have a symptom you are given the option to speak to medical personnel who will discuss over the phone your symptoms; give consultation and/or direct you to get tested at a nearby site. “I actually went to get tested because I thought I had kind of a sore throat. My results came back within 20 hours and I was tested negative so I knew I was okay but I still stayed in my room just in case.” To see full interview – click here.

The helpfulness of this app has caught the attention of Google and Apple. According to https://9to5google these two tech giants are working on a cross-platform solution. “When two people are in close range, their phones will exchange anonymous identifiers that change daily. If an individual gets diagnosed with Covid-19, they can have their device transmit a list of everybody they’ve been in contact with to the cloud. Meanwhile, the second person’s phone will periodically download a list of everyone that has tested positive in their area. If a match occurs, they will be notified and prompted to contact health authorities.”

How this app will work in Grenada’s context is yet to be seen, or if it can. Further, during press briefings on Covid-19 there has been a reluctance to share which community or parish infected or affected persons reside. The decision to withhold seemed to be based on our population size, ways of movement and especially to prevent ostracisation of said persons. If that app can be downloaded globally, there will be no way to stop that information from becoming public knowledge, unless someone develops an app that is appropriate for our cultural context.

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