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Combating coronavirus: TraceCovid app to help identify suspected cases in UAE

Ashwani Kumar /Abu Dhabi
ashwani@khaleejtimes.com Filed on April 11, 2020 | Last updated on April 11, 2020 at 11.55 am
Combating, coronavirus, covid-19, TraceCovid app, help, identify, suspected, cases, UAE

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It will help to identify people who may have come into contact with an infected patient.

A contact tracing smartphone app has been launched in the UAE to flatten the Covid-19 curve and contain the coronavirus pandemic.

The UAE on Saturday introduced TraceCovid app, developed by the Department of Health - Abu Dhabi (DoH), that will help identify people who may have come into contact with an infected patient. This will help authorities to quickly trace and provide the necessary health care.

Once downloaded, the user will receive a one-time password for verification from Weqaya, managed by the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority. The app can function only on a Bluetooth-enabled smartphone. Once the user is outdoors, the Bluetooth will detect other smartphones with the app.

How the app works?

The TraceCovid app will detect nearby users and exchange an encrypted Secure Tracing Identifier (STI) via Bluetooth, which will be stored on the phone. The STI will, therefore, be a list of all persons in close contact with the user. Once someone is known to be infected, the authorities will request the STI list to be shared, which will provide information to carry out contact tracing. Also, a user who has tested positive can contact authorities to share details of STI.

A proven method

Health experts suggest contact tracing as a 'proven method' to halt the transmission of Covid-19 within the community by breaking the chain of transmission.

"By identifying those who have come in close contact with the infected patients, health authorities can advise self-isolation or quarantine. Should any of them show symptoms of the disease, their contacts can then be traced and the process repeated," said Dr Mohamad Mooty, department chair of infectious diseases, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.

He noted that contact tracing is a proactive measure that can be taken to control an outbreak in its early stages, helping to limit the spread or even stop it in its tracks.

"Given the resources required for extensive contact tracing, it is generally used in the early stages of an outbreak before community spread takes hold. Once an outbreak becomes more widespread, enforcing physical distancing and ensuring people stay at home as much as possible become more effective in containing the infection," he added.

Innovative approach

He underlined that as the country strives to return to normalcy, contact tracing is an 'important tool' in ensuring there is no resurgence of infections within the community.

"The launch of the DoH's 'TraceCovid' app brings an innovative approach to contact tracing that should significantly reduce the manpower required, allowing authorities to scale up their work to protect our community."
Details about the app can be found on its website: https://tracecovid.ae/.

How the app functions:

> Bluetooth-enabled smartphone will detect other smartphones with the TraceCovid app
> An encrypted Secure Tracing Identifier (STI) is exchanged and stored on the phone
> Once someone is known to be infected, the authorities will request the STI list to be shared
> A user who has tested positive can contact authorities to share details of STI

ashwani@khaleejtimes.com

Ashwani Kumar


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