As part of measures to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus in country, the Government of Saint Lucia is exploring a COVID-19 contact tracing application.
The project consultant is a Harvard University graduate and researcher from Saint Lucia, Mr. Khahlil Louisy.
He said the application is neither designed to invade privacy, nor collect or transfer information on the users.
“It inputs a location log of the public places that you would have visited over a 14-day period. For a two-week period it maintains all of those points and saves it in your phone. No one has access to his information. Even if somebody goes into your phone they cannot see all of the places that you’ve visited, so it’s completely private. In the event that one individual does test positive for COVID-19 or for any infectious disease, they can choose to share that location log with the contact tracer and the contact tracer would then be able to have a visual representation of the public places that the individual had gone to over the 14-day period. The contact tracer has the choice to delete certain points if they don’t think it’s necessary but what it does, is it provides a mapping of the spread of the virus because if you have a number of people who’ve tested positive for the infection and you have all of their location data you can see those hotspots.”
Contact tracing is a standard public health strategy used to break the transmission chain and to contain the spread of infectious diseases. It involves ‘tracing’ or actively searching for all contacts who may have been exposed to an infected individual. This process is very important in Saint Lucia’s fight against the spread of COVID-19.
Surveillance Officer, Dr. Dana Gomez, said the app will vastly improve the contact tracing process.
“There are some limitations to contact tracing and sometimes persons don’t remember exactly where they’ve been, who they’ve been in contact with, who has visited them, or some of the activities that they have been engaged in.
The application will allow the contact tracing team to be privy to the information that the confirmed case provides. It will be pretty much like what is happening now, but it will help to jog their memory.”
Individuals are informed within 24 hours of testing position and the contact tracing process begins immediately.
The information obtained by the app is only accessed if an individual has tested positive for COVID-19 and is accessed by contact tracing personnel. Only relevant information is accessed, and all information is kept confidential.
Principal Nursing Officer, Juliette Cassius, explains how the app aids in home quarantine as well.
“Those placed under home quarantine are expected to remain within the confines of their dwelling. We would not expect these persons to be moving around, so in that case the app will confirm that you have remained at home. In that way it puts a little less pressure on health personnel because we know that person remained confined and we wouldn’t have to assign additional resources to contact tracing.”
The application, called 758 Care Alert, is expected to be available to the public in the coming weeks.
Headline photo courtesy John Cameron