The National Department of Health’s digital COVID-19 response programme recently launched the app, COVID Alert SA. The app utilises bluetooth contact-tracing technology to make people aware if they come into contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 – therefore helping to slow the spread of COVID-19 and alleviate the pandemic’s effects on the economy and society of South Africa.
Contact tracing is done by finding people who have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. This is done to let them know that they may have been exposed to the disease, and makes it possible for them to self-quarantine, monitor their symptoms, and prevent further spread of the disease.
Normally, contact tracing is conducted manually. Healthcare workers interview the person who has tested positive to get a list of people they have been in close contact with in the last 14 days – but this makes it difficult to remember all the people one has met over that period. COVID Alert SA eliminates the need for people to remember everyone they have come into contact with and makes the contact tracing thorough, through letting the COVID Alert SA app users’ devices do the work.
The free app is available on the Apple App Store and on Google Play Store. The app must be downloaded, notifications and Bluetooth enabled, and the app runs in the background. The app then sends an exposure notification when you are in close contact with another person who has the app and has tested positive, the app tells you how to limit the spread of COVID-19 and provides education on health management while tracking COVID-19 symptoms.
According to sacoronavirus.co.za, the online resource and news portal for COVID-19 in South Africa, the COVID Alert SA’s app users are South Africa’s “new heroes”. The app, which is easy to download as it is less than 3MB in size, is free, does not have in-app-purchases, and is zero rated so users will not incur any data charges when using the app.
Smart phone users can use a new built-in setting released by both iOS and Android in tandem with the app. For iPhones, a new version of the iOS operating system was released on 1 September, which includes built-in contact tracing abilities that works with a compatible app. On Android devices, the operating system will also send a prompt when used with the app.