SA makes headway with COVID-19 track and trace system

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Telkom CEO Sipho Maseko.
Telkom CEO Sipho Maseko.

Mobile operator Telkom has helped develop SA’s solution to identify people who may have been in contact with confirmed coronavirus cases.

This is according to Telkom, which says its team has been working with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), to develop a track and trace solution to classify people who may have contracted COVID-19.

The Telkom news comes as president Cyril Ramaphosa revealed this week that mobile technology will be central to SA’s efforts to screen, test, trace and medically manage the coronavirus pandemic.

In SA, the number of positive COVID-19 cases has surpassed 1 300, with five people confirmed to have lost their lives to the virus, to date. Globally, the number of coronavirus cases continues to surge, standing at 940 733 cases, 47 518 deaths and 196 217 recoveries, at the time of publication.

The JSE-listed company notes the track and trace system is in line with global best practice promoted by the World Health Organisation, taking into account SA’s unique circumstances, which include high income inequality, poverty and overcrowding.

“At Telkom, we are deeply concerned about what the spread of this pandemic may mean for ordinary South Africans and for the already overstretched health sector. We are privileged to be able to contribute to this solution which we believe will help to significantly contain the spread of new infections,” says CEO Sipho Maseko.

The track and trace system, according to Telkom, is part of its broader support of the fight against the spread of the pandemic in the country.

Upon the local outbreak of COVID-19, the government majority-owned telco announced various data cost-saving efforts. It also committed financial support to the COVID-19 fight by pledging R15 million.

In terms of functionality, the system will collate multiple data sources, such as the geographic information system, to track an infected person’s exposure and who they may have unknowingly exposed to the virus.

This is aimed at reducing the current reliance on the patient’s own recollections of who they may have exposed unknowingly and enables the CSIR to contact people who were in the same proximity as the patient, says Telkom.

“In certain communities, the Department of Health will be using trackers to trace primary contacts and ensure testing for secondary contacts.”

Furthermore, Telkom has partnered with Samsung to distribute 1 500 handsets to trackers across the country. The system will integrate the information collected by the trackers.

“What we face is a generation-defining moment, a challenge unlike any other. However, our belief in Africa and its people remains steadfast and strong. I know, working together, we can and we will rise to this challenge,” says CEO and president of Samsung Africa Sung Yoon.

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