The government has launched Contact Tracing in Nepal, after about 35,500 confirmed COVID cases and its increasing risks to more people. The already available “Hamro Swasthya” application now has a new update which includes the feature of contact tracing for corona infected people.
The app utilizes BlueTooth to conduct the tracing by considering the privacy of its users. According to the Ministry of Health and Population, it will help to decrease the hazards of COVID-19 to some extent.
What is Contact Tracing?
To put it into the definition, Contact tracing is the process of identification of people who have come in contact with the corona patients. Many countries already use Bluetooth tracking applications to keep track of infections and alert people in case of risks.
It has months since the Ministry of Health and Population had publicized its authorized application called “Hamro Swasthya” to the android and IOS users across the country. This app allows users to self evaluate and update the condition of their health daily.
So, according to the description of their self-evaluation, the related health workers working under the Ministry will take further actions. To the users who seem to have symptoms of the virus, the health workers inform them and advise them to take the necessary precautions. In case of some serious conditions, they make arrangements for them to visit the nearby hospital or clinic.
How does the COVID contract tracing work?
To make use of Contact tracing, you will first have to download the “Hamro Swasthya” app. Then, follow the given steps:
- As soon as the app installs, it will ask you for your consent to utilize your personal data and device ID.
- After you give your permission, it then requires you to login with the help of your name and phone number.
- The last step is to turn on the Bluetooth tracing of your device after reading the app’s policy and features.
The app collects the hardware identification number (Mac ID) of Bluetooth devices that are around 10 meters of the user’s device. However, it cannot collect the mobile number or ID of the device. The app cannot interpret any details like where the person travels to and from, who does he/she meets and for how long does he/ she stay around someone.
Nevertheless, the main purpose of this app is to inform the user about the number of Bluetooth devices they came in contact with. Also, it notifies the user about how long were they around the devices. Experts say that the name and personal details of the person will not reveal. This helps in protecting the privacy and identification of the users of the app. Furthermore, the collected MAC IDs are only stored in the device of the user of the “Hamro Swasthya” app. As per the Ministry’s claims, after 14 days, the information will itself be deleted from the user’s device.
Apart from Contact tracing, the Hamro Swasthya app also contains information like:
- Guide to your self-assessment test and its results
- Updated data regarding the number of infected people, PCR tests and deaths in your city
- Data regarding the number of infected people, PCR tests and deaths throughout the country
- Knowledge and latest news related to the pandemic
Features of Contact tracing
It does not matter when an infected person is not using the “Hamro Swasthya” app. If he/she comes around one of the users of the app and has turned on his Bluetooth, it is notified on the dashboard of the “Hamro Swasthya” app. Then the Ministry of Health recognizes the Bluetooth ID of the infected person with the help of the site server. The same process applies even to the person who utilizes the Bluetooth tracing of the app.
The devices, which have their Bluetooth turned off also keep getting new updates in the app from time to time. Whenever it identifies any new Bluetooth device on the server, the app checks if the device ID is authentic or not. Moreover, if the new device ID resembles any IDs whose information is already stored in the server, it helps to find out if it belongs to the same user.
If the IDs are similar, the Ministry will recommend the device owner to take a Corona test doubting him/her to be infected.
Advantages of Contact Tracing
- It outperforms the traditional way of manually recording data and relying upon the patient’s memory.
- The information can be reported faster and in a better way.
- The spread of the virus minimizes as people become well informed and well aware of their surroundings and infected patients around them.
- Contact tracing keeps a detailed track of infections around the country.
- It might help to ease down the lockdown.
- People can self evaluate their health without having to visit health clinics or hospitals.
Application of contact tracing throughout the world
Meanwhile, the other nations have been using Contact tracing for a very long time to monitor the Coronavirus cases. This has played a vital role to lift lockdown and halt contagions in their countries. For instance, countries like South Korea, Vietnam, and New Zealand used Contact tracing as one of their early measures to tackle the pandemic. The results now show that they have successfully managed to slow down the growth rate of the infected patients. To tell the truth, even after the report of 24.5 M cases of corona around the world in the current situation, Vietnam only records 1040 cases of coronavirus.
People have started predicting that living with the pandemic will become the “new normal”. It is because this virus won’t go away easily. Amidst these circumstances, contact tracing might help people adjust to the new lifestyle. However, it has some challenges too, as it might encourage abuse of the data. It can have damaging effects on society if the security of the data is comprised. It will also enable mass surveillance, enabling easy spy on the user’s movement.
Meanwhile, in Nepal, within the first few months of the first lockdown, the government had launched the application called “COVID np”. It has similar features including one-stop covid19 information as that of “Hamro Swasthya”. The app also traces individuals using GPS and Bluetooth media. Thought it had positive reviews, in the beginning, the app didn’t turn out to prove as effective as expected.
So, the Ministry of Health and Population launched this new feature of contact tracing in an authorized app of the government i.e. “Hamro Swasthya”. This app too was launched to provide information about the covid19 situation and contact the authorities. However, a new update has now been added to make it popular among the public.
There is no doubt that Contact tracing will bring some changes to the present situation in Nepal. We truly hope it helps to control the spread of the virus by alerting the people about the need to stay indoors and physical distancing. So, we highly recommend you download the “Hamro Swasthya” app as soon as possible. You can then examine your health conditions by sitting inside your own houses.
You may also read: Myths about 5G causing the Coronavirus pandemic and the impact
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