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Nepal performing contact tracing to curtail the Covid-19 spread

It is a proven fact the countries that used the contact tracing were effective to diminish the spreading of the Coronavirus. As known, Nepal also mulling to use such tracing app to track the possible contacts COVID-19 mobile apps. As the government needs to test and quarantine all the individuals who might have contacted the infected personnel or people from abroad, contact tracing seems inevitable. Find more information on contact tracing mobile apps in Nepal and the latest updates.

PM address

In the last address to people from Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli hinted to preparing such apps to address the virus spread effectively. PM tries to assure people for leaving no stone unturned to win over the virus.

As Nepal enters the second stage of infection, they need to perform rapid tests for the people from abroad and their possible contacts. The chain of the virus infection can be identified through contact tracing and further testing, isolation helps to stop the virus infection to communities.

Although Nepal has already launched the web portal and COVID-19 apps, the Government has started to perform contact tracing through offline data processing and monitoring them through a mobile app (mentioned below). It is also a possibility that the government will launch a completely new app just for further contact tracing only.

Contact tracing app in Nepal

Update: A mobile app based on Bluetooth connectivity is launched in Nepal. So, the phones using the contact tracing app can get information from other nearby phones using Bluetooth communication. Then the collection of such data in a centralized server can keep track of the contact with personnel who could be infected one. It can also provide an alarm in real-time to people with the apps. Find more information on the contact tracing app of Nepal.

As a single data source may be insufficient to garner an accurate result, it seems necessary to integrate other sources like GPS data, Cellular data, CCTV data.

Cobuddy app (COVID Sathi)

As we thought of a new app, the government has recently launched the Cobuddy COVID-19 app which tracks people put in the quarantine. It shares the real-time information of those monitored people and also sends an alarm if they cross certain boundaries.

So the features in the app are:

  • Location tracking
  • Geo-fencing, facial recognition
  • Communicate with doctors and officials for support
  • Dashboard for the officials

This app is provided to the Government of Nepal for free by the A’fno Nepal (in association with the NotionTag Technology). To make this app work, people in the quarantine need to install the app on their smartphone and have access to the internet (3G, 4G, WiFi). Security bodies or authorized personnel can track the movement of these people to make sure they do not move out of the quarantine place. If people feel uncomfortable during their stay, they can also inform doctors or the authorized personnel of the same.

It seems you cannot download the app and start the tracing for your requirements now. As known, this app will be available in the play store soon. This kind of app is also being used in Gujarat and Panjab of India.

What is contact tracing?

Contact tracing is the process of finding individuals who could have made contact with the infected person. As there is a possibility of virus infection with the contact, the identification can help the authorities to closely monitor those people. This process aims to reduce the transmission of the virus to more people.

As per WHO, contact tracing is one of the proven methods that is found effective in controlling the Ebola virus pandemic. Now with this Coronavirus pandemic, some countries are also using it to reduce the virus spreading.

The contact tracing ensures the separation of the possible infected person and prompt checkup of the person through contact identification, contact listing, and follow-up.

Tracing through new SIM card

While we go through the above details, CCMC (COVID-19 Crisis Management Center) has taken the details of the newly registered SIM card from the telecom companies. Earlier they had requested the SIM details that people bought after Chaitra 2.

Ntc Ncell SIM

With their belief that the people from abroad might have taken a new SIM, they have started to trace those people based on the details.

It is known that the number of such sim cards is around 60 thousand with 20 thousand from Ntc alone. The call center established by CCMC has started contacting those sim cards for data collection, identification of possible infected people.

While they make a call, they find it difficult to actually make a conversation for all as most of them don’t pick up. For those who pick up, they have suggested to go to the nearest health center and then will also monitor if they have done so or not.

The manual processing of the SIM card has taken ample amount of time and it is also cumbersome as people may not be voluntarily supporting just from the telephone call. So, proper AI based software tools in coordination with multiple data sources can only provide efficient and accurate result on time.

If some of them are found infected or having more probability, they might be reaching out to test them and put them under quarantine.

Likewise, they also need to track the foreigners who were on international roaming here in Nepal. So, CCMC technical experts (if they are the ones working on it) shall get the roaming numbers and their location information to make it complete.

While all these details are being transferred, proper cautions need to be taken for the privacy and data security concerns. The officials need to make sure that the data will be in safe hands and must guarantee people’s privacy during such analysis.

Update 1: The government starts to perform contact tracing through the new SIM card bought from Chaitra. (April 25, 2020)

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