After creating “geo-fence” for those in quarantine, the authorities in Punjab are all set to use color codes to alert people on their phones about their proximity with novel coronavirus (COVID-19) patients. This is being done by including bluetooth mode in the multi-purpose COVA mobile application, which has so far been downloaded by more than 8.5 lakh people in Punjab.
“The application was already helping public with information like which are the nearest COVID positive patients around them or which are the hotspots near them. We were and are using GPS technology. The latest feature, which we have already submitted for update on Android, is bluetooth technology,” said Jasminder Pal Singh, a senior consultant with the State e-governance Mission Team of Punjab government.
The latest feature will alert people in case they are approaching a “suspect” or a confirmed COVID-19 patient and also will help authorities in contact tracing. “We have used color coding such green for healthy, orange for suspect (cases) and red for confirmed,” said Singh, adding the bluetooth provides exact information as it gets activated only once a person comes near the patient or anyone who has breached the quarantine.
As per a demo seen by The Indian Express, warning messages such as “You have just came close to a Corona suspected person” or “You are approximately 2.54 km away from nearest COVID-19 patient” are sent on phones that have the COVA app installed. The COVA application has been developed by Punjab’s Department of Governance Reforms and Department of Health and Family Welfare.
While the GPS information is getting uploaded on the servers, a file containing the data about bluetooth connections will remain stored on phones only. “The information will remain stored in the phone only as long as the alerts are green. The moment it turns orange or red, the information will go to the server. When the user becomes suspect or turns out to be positive, the 14-day history will be retrieved. It won’t be done everyday,” said Singh.
Unlike the similar Aarogya Setu application of Union government, COVA has multiple features — it also has a chat-bot for coronavirus self-assessment, an option to connect to a doctor, place orders for grocery and essentials, search foreign travellers, report mass gathering, look for the helpline numbers and read government orders and latest coronavirus figures.
Department of Governance Reforms & Public Grievances, Special Secretary Ravi Bhagat said they are in contact with Google and Apple to further improve contact tracing through data available on phones. COVA’s bluetooth feature on Monday was pending approval with the Google Playstore.
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