Space 95 – an IT services company in Seychelles – has launched “Contak”, a contact tracing app that will enable users to register places they have visited. Contact tracers at the Public Health Authority can leverage the app to better track individuals who might have been exposed to COVID-19. Public Health Commissioner Jude Gedeon mentioned in a press conference that the Ministry of Health “welcomes this app and is working closely with the developers”.
HOW IT WORKS
At present, the app can only be downloaded from Google Play through an Android phone. A version that is compatible with iOS devices will be released later. Personal information such as an individual’s name, contact number, and National Identification Number must be provided during the registration process.
Users of the app will need to scan a QR code at the entrance of a venue. Alternatively, a door attendant will scan the app-generated QR code of the user or the QR code of other individuals whom the user has frequent contact with. Once the QR code has been scanned, the information will be safely stored and encrypted on the smartphone. Only the user will be able to gain access to this information.
Those who do not own a smartphone can have another person register their personal details on the app and print a personal QR code for them. Similarly, a person can obtain a QR code ID card supplied by the PHA.
Individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 can share their stsatus through the app to inform health authorities, and others who were at the same location as them will receive an alert. This allows for groups of people to be alerted much more quickly if they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus.
WHY IT MATTERS
Currently, Seychelles citizens will need to call the MOH to alert officials that they are a potential contact. Contact tracers will then evaluate the situation to determine if they were a close contact before letting them know what the next steps are. The app will be able to complement the Seychelles government’s contact tracing efforts.
Andy Noel, Chief Operations Officer at Space 95 mentioned that some of the problems encountered with traditional contact tracing include people being unable to accurately recall all the places that they have been to or people providing false information in visitors’ logbooks as there is a lack of privacy.
THE LARGER TREND
To help mitigate the spread of this virus, many nations have developed contact tracing and warning apps. These apps have helped health authorities to swiftly isolate individuals who have come into contact with those who have tested positive for the virus. Healthcare providers have increasingly been developing ways to simplify the contact tracing process using technology, such as the Methodist Hospital of Southern California using an automated contact tracing system.
ON THE RECORD
“If you are found to be positive with COVID-19, one simply needs to go to the app and upload the diary to the health agency using Wi-Fi or internet data. This information is uploaded to a server at Department of Information, Technology and Communication, allowing the relevant authority to access the information. Someone who has scanned the same poster the same time as you will receive an alert, letting them know that they are potential contacts,” Noel said.