Canada’s new COVID Alert app seems to take a lot of criticism from its citizens as many of them are unable to download this app on their mobiles. Despite the technical limitations, Dr. Theresa Tam says the app is one of many tools in fighting the novel coronavirus.
COVID Alert app is an “exposure notification” app that uses BlueTooth as it’s a unique feature to exchange special pins between two devices that are exposed to each other for more than 15 min. In case one of the users later gets infected by COVID-19, the app will flash the “exposed” notifications to all the users who had been in the 2-meter proximity of the infected user. So far, it is a voluntary app working only in Ontario.
Being one of Toronto’s renowned leaders in Digital Transformation, Aqib Khan talks about some additional key areas that will cover all aspects that COVID Alert App lacks in becoming one of the most efficient mobile app solutions to bring a massive difference in the fight against coronavirus pandemic.
Mandatory Vs Voluntary
The first and foremost challenge that needs to be addressed is how we can make the app reach its full potential in serving the purpose. This is where it becomes crucially important to make the “COVID Alert” mobile app mandatory under federal rules. It becomes even more crucial when we cannot afford to leave any stones unturned in the times of a global health disaster like this. It is therefore required that every person who is leaving the house has the app installed and running. This can be done by implementing two protocols across the country as discussed below.
No Entrance to Public Premises without App
Once officially mandated, this will be ensured by cops and local authorities the moment someone enters shopping malls, pubs, parking lots, clinics, or any other public premises. They will be asked to install the app before the entrance. Failing to do so will be restricted to enter the public area and may have to hold a hefty fine if caught without the app.
Making App Update under Supervision
An update to the app by a user, after COVID-19 tests confirmed to be positive, is currently a voluntary act. The person who has been tested positive can choose to not update the app. This will do more harm in spreading the coronavirus if positive cases like this are not recorded on time. To avoid this situation, testing centers must be given the authority to supervise the activities of ‘app-update’ as soon as the person is recognized to be infected right at the testing centers. This will send out immediate notifications to all the persons who were in contact with the now infected user. Thus, providing them with the necessary guidelines to ensure there is no spread of the virus.
“Stop The Spread” using GPS tracker and Webcam features
In late March, the Quarantine Act imposed mandatory 14-day isolation for any Canadian who is entering the border of Canada. This is put in place knowing the fact that it has a huge impact on preventing the spread of the contagious virus. As per the guidelines issued by the federal government, one who doesn’t comply with federal rules may be subjected to a hefty fine of up to $750,000, prison time of up to 6 months, or both. But as per the current scenarios, cops make sure via manual means such as making random calls or visiting home in-person.
The GPS tracker and Webcam feature will go hand-in-hand. GPS tracker will trace and keep a record of the current location during the period of quarantine. Whereas, random home visits by cops will efficiently be replaced by random webcam calls. These features together will give the government a closer eye on each person who has been asked to go for 14-day isolation.
GPS Trackers for COVID Alert App
Integrating a GPS tracker in the app will resolve the two major problems that the country is currently facing when ensuring 14-day quarantined for every citizen. Firstly, it will ensure that every person is complying with the 14-day quarantine rules set by the government. Secondly, it will – along with exposure notification feature – trace back to all the users who have been in contact with the now infected user. This will expedite the process of marking the potential spreaders under the 14-day isolation frame and immediate action can be taken.
How will GPS tracker work?
Once a user is identified as COVID-19 positive, they will be asked to keep the GPS location on for the period of quarantine. Mobile app will keep a complete record of the person’s whereabouts with the help of GPS trackers. The live locations will be under surveillance by the local authorities to ensure the rules are followed. Immediate action can be taken in case the rule of isolation is broken giving a better hold to the cops.
Grabbing the Loophole with Webcam Feature
The GPS trackers alone can still be dodged by those who do not bother to comply with the quarantine rules. They can simply leave the phone at home while continuing to live a quarantined free life uninterrupted. This is where webcams are introduced. Instead of having a cop visit houses randomly, unscheduled video calls can be installed in place to ensure they are at home. The video call can be made anytime without prior notice. In case they miss the video call, 2 more video calls will be made within a considerably short span. In case all 3 video calls are missed. This will allow the cops to divide their attention as per the individual’s behavior with the placed rules. The cops will know where they need to have more attention and accordingly a ticket can be issued.
Challenges In Our Way
Make COVID-19 Testing Mandatory
The current COVID-19 testing scenarios across Canada do not have mandatory testing implemented. It is more like a voluntary act wherein if someone has the symptoms he/she can choose to get it tested. So there is a huge gap in case the symptom gets worse but a person chooses to roam around without complying with it. Having a strategy installed for public health welfare without making it mandatory is of no use. People avoid going to test centers, which makes it dangerously harmful for anyone who comes in contact with them. It is important to bring awareness and strictness concerning public safety. Until we do something with this challenge the chances of spreading the virus remain alarmingly high.
False Negative Test Results
Current accuracy rates of these Testing kits are still far as there is no enough information about coronavirus known. Several false negative tests in the past are concerning and hinder the full scope of the outbreak. This is yet another challenge we are struggling with raising concern about the sick people who could unknowingly spread the virus.
Every effort in containing the noble coronavirus is precious and needs to be executed in full force. We know the country is not ready to withstand another hit if the situation goes out of control. The second wave of economy shut down will devastate the power to revive back tremendously. We must go through all the possibilities we have in our hands to fight against the deadly coronavirus and we believe in making a huge impact by bringing forth valuable solutions through thought leadership.
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