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Govt asks citizens to add their phones to COVID-19 fight

Read time 2min 40sec

President Cyril Ramaphosa has once again urged citizens to download the government-endorsed COVID Alert SA app, this time urging organisations to participate.

Addressing the nation on the country’s COVID-19 status on Wednesday evening, Ramaphosa appealed to all organisations to encourage their staff and visitors to download the app when they enter offices, shops, schools, universities and other enclosed spaces.

The coronavirus notification app was introduced by the national Department of Health as part of efforts to help the state contain the virus and prevent a resurgence of infections.

In SA, the virus has claimed the lives of 20 011 South Africans. The total number of confirmed cases now stands at 742 394, with the total number of recoveries at 686 458, to date.

Last night, the president reiterated government is committed to utilising various tools to fight the virus.

“I call on each of you to join the 700 000 South Africans who have downloaded the COVID Alert SA mobile app,” he stated. “The COVID Alert app can notify you if you have been exposed to the virus – whether it is in a taxi, a shopping mall or a social gathering – and it does so without sharing your location or any personal information.

“The app is zero-rated by mobile networks, so it won’t cost you anything to protect yourself and others.

“By downloading the app, you help to make the virus visible and break the chain of transmission.”

SA’s COVID-19 alert app has been built using Apple and Google’s contact-tracing technology.

In April, the rival tech giants announceda joint venture to enable the use of advanced Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the deadly virus, with user privacy and security central to the design. The app is said not to use GPS tracking.

The app alerts people if they have been exposed to persons that have tested positive for the coronavirus in the last 14 days. Using Bluetooth technology, it exchanges a random code with other users of the app. This happens when their smartphones are within two metres of each other for more than 15 minutes. The identity and location of the users are not required for the exchange to happen, in order to protect their privacy.

Once users have downloaded and installed the app, it runs in the background. Bluetooth and notifications must be enabled for the app to work and users need to have access to a mobile or WiFi network to send and receive exposure alerts.

If a person tests positive for COVID-19, they can use the app to notify all other users that they have been in contact with during the past 14 days. All phones that have exchanged codes will receive an alert with instructions on what to do next.

The app is available for Android and iOS-powered smartphones.

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