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South Africa Launches Official COVID-19 Contact Tracing App

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coronavirus contact tracing
Image Courtesy @mbaumi (Unsplash)

South Africa’s department of health has launched an official COVID-19 contact tracing app. The app, which uses Google’s and Apple’s exposure notification framework, is available for download from both Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store.

This new app, COVID Alert South Africa, complements the already existing COVIDConnect digital support service which launched earlier in July. The former works on both smartphones and feature phones giving users access to COVID-19 news, health information and risk-assessment tools through SMS or WhatsApp.

The COVID Alert app on the other hand automatically notifies users if they have been exposed to the virus through people they met. “The app uses Bluetooth signals to exchange ‘random codes’ with other COVID Alert SA app users. This happens when their smartphones are within 2 metres of each other for more than 15 minutes,” explains the Department of Health.

How It Works

When you turn on Exposure Notifications your phone shares random IDs with other nearby phones have turned on the Exposure Notifications System. The details shared include date, duration and signal strength associated with exposure.

To help ensure these random IDs can’t be used to identify you or your location, they change every 10-20 minutes. Your phone and the phones around you will work in the background to exchange these privacy-preserving random IDs via Bluetooth. You do not need to have the app open for this process to take place.

Your phone periodically checks all the random IDs associated with positive COVID-19 cases against its own list. It’s important to note that the random IDs are automatically deleted after 14 days. If you have COVID-19, when you share your random ID, the app will notify others anonymously.

The Exposure Notification

When a user tests positive for COVID-19, they can choose to report this information on the app anonymously (the process is purely voluntary). Their phone will then uploads all of the random codes that it has recorded for the past two weeks to the exposure notification server.

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The server will then send these codes to all the users of the app. If your current code matches any of the ones that have been marked as exposed, you are notified. Users who receive this notification will also be informed on how to self-quarantine, and how to beat the virus.

Download the app on Google Play Store

Download the app on Apple App Store

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