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  /  Covid   /  Everything you need to know about contact tracing in this pandemic
contact tracing

Everything you need to know about contact tracing in this pandemic

It’s been over a year now since the pandemic has disturbed our lives. Till date, all of us are struggling to get used to the ‘new normal’. Many countries have already become a victim of a second wave of the virus. No doubt, travel, tourism, opening up public areas, reopening the borders have all made matters worse. Despite implementing lockdown, the situation doesn’t look like it is improving. Countries like US, India, Australia, Spain, and the UK are among the worst hit countries all across the globe.

 

Everything you need to know about contact tracing in this pandemic

People have expressed concern over the rising cases and the lack of precautions taken. Dr Stéphane Hugonnet, Medical Doctor and Epidemiologist, Unit Head, WHO Health Emergency Programme also stressed on how critical the situation is right now. In the midst of all this, what can serve to be beneficial is contact tracing. This will identify active cases and also their contacts. Doing this will help in curbing the spread of the virus.

Simply put, contact tracing is the process wherein one can identify all those people who have come in contact with a patient in the last two weeks who has tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Dr Stéphane Hugonnet says that coming up with a system that caters to identifying cases, identifying contacts of the positive patient, following up, and providing them with the required support, be it in the form of treating them, providing quarantine related information, etc. is the need of the hour.

But what needs to be understood here is that the whole purpose is complicated and time consuming as well. This is because the task doesn’t involve hundreds or thousands of people but billions and trillions and the fact that the virus is easily transmitted between people. Some seem to develop symptoms while others remain asymptomatic.

Doing all of this manually is very tough. Hence, the need of digital tools that’d get these tasks done is at an all-time high. Go. Data is a tool developed by the WHO that assists in various processes involved in contact tracing such as initial case investigation, transmission pathway visualization, and contact follow-up. Among other tools is Safer Me that helps in providing employers with a database of regularly updated contact tracing from employees. There are a lot of tools in the market that work differently. Features vary from tool to tool.

Walking on the road of digitalization, Apple and Google have developed applications that’d alert users when they’ve come into contact with a Covid-19 positive person. These downloadable applications employ Bluetooth for this. However, these digital proximity tracking tools weren’t accepted by everyone. People complained about how secure the user data would be and also the privacy aspect of the same.

In response to the same, Bernardo Mariano Junior, Director of the Department of Digital Health and Innovation and Chief Information Officer of WHO, said that how efficient the digital proximity tracking tools depends on a high coverage and utilization rate among the population. He added that care must be taken to make sure that privacy isn’t abused. Hence, coming up with frameworks that account for both data privacy and data sharing is critical.

Before the pandemic, the digital proximity tracking tools were quite efficient in delivering results as anticipated. But in the case of coronavirus, considering how rapid the transmission rate is, the need of much better, improved, enhanced and advanced technologies might be required to scale up the process of contact tracing. Also, a point worth noting is that digital solutions might benefit only certain sections of the society – the privileged section. This is because the involvement of smart devices is pivotal.

The countries are trying every possible way to develop methodologies that’d transform the process of contact tracing for better. Though a lot of work is still pending, the world is still hopeful that things will fall in place.