Under resourced countries could get new COVID-19 app thanks to WHO efforts

WHO also released guidelines about contact tracing for the coronavirus yesterday.
By Laura Lovett
04:06 pm
Share

 (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Under resourced countries may be getting a coronavirus app thanks to new efforts from the World Health Organization, Reuters reports

The organization plans to roll out a new app that will help people figure out if they are symptomatic of the coronavirus. According to the Reuter’s report, down the pipeline WHO may be rolling out a Bluetooth-based coronavirus tracing app for middle- and low-income countries to use in order to help track the virus. 

Yesterday WHO released an interim guidance about contact tracing in the context of COVID-19. 

“Contact tracing is the process of identifying, assessing, and managing people who have been exposed to a disease to prevent onward transmission,” the guidance reads. “When systematically applied, contact tracing will break the chains of transmission of an infectious disease and is thus an essential public health tool for controlling infectious disease outbreaks. Contact tracing for COVID-19 requires identifying persons who may have been exposed to COVID-19 and following them up daily for 14 days from the last point of exposure.” 

The documents focus on how to engage communities in contact tracing efforts, planning and consideration of the local contexts, workforce training, logistical support and data analysis. 

WHY IT MATTERS 

Globally there are over 4 million cases of coronavirus, according to WHO. While Europe and the America’s have the most cases, both topping 1.7 million, the problem is global. Today Africa has over 44,000 cases and South East Asia has over 100,000 cases. 

As lockdowns continue around the globe, governments have been increasingly looking to tracing technologies as a way to help stop the spread and relax movement restrictions. 

THE LARGER TREND 

While this app caters to countries that may not already have tracing technology, several other countries have rolled out their own versions. In India, a platform called Aarogya Setu was designed to inform users about their risk of infection and alert public health officials. Last week the government passed a law that declares that employers are responsible for making sure that their domestic employees in both the private and public sector download the app. 

France is also planning to release its new contact-tracing efforts that employees Bluetooth technology. 

Apple and Google are collaborating on a contact-tracing tool. The pair plan on creating APIs that will enable interoperability between iOS and Android products by way of official apps from public health authorities. 

In the longer term, the two companies have committed to building a Bluetooth-based contact-tracing functionality into their underlying operating systems. 

The U.K. is also working on its own tracing app. However, last week the government made it clear it would not be using Apple and Google’s contact-tracing tool, as originally planned, according to the BBC. Apple and Google’s model pitches a decentralized system for tracing, while the NHSX – which works on the UK’s digital health efforts – is proposing a centralized system.