The World Health Organization (WHO) plans to launch a program this month to Allow people in under-resourced countries to Evaluate whether they may have the novel coronavirus, Also is Contemplating a Bluetooth-based contact tracing Attribute too, an official told Reuters on Friday.
The program will ask people about their signs and offer guidance on whether they may have COVID-19, the potentially lethal illness resulting from the coronavirus, stated Bernardo Mariano, chief information officer to the WHO. Other information, like how to get analyzed, will be customized based on the user’s country.
Although the WHO will release a version on program stores globally, any government will be able to take the program’s underlying engineering, add features and release its own version on app stores, Mariano stated in a phone interview.
India, Australia, and the United Kingdom have launched official virus programs using their own technologies, with common features such as telling people whether to get tested according to their symptoms and logging people’s moves to enable more effective contact tracing.
Several countries are ramping up contact tracing, or the process of discovering, testing and isolating people who crossed paths with an infectious individual.
The WHO expects its program to draw attention in different countries, including some in South America and Africa where case numbers are climbing. They may lack the engineers and technology to come up with apps or be struggling to offer testing and education.
“The value is really for countries that do not have anything,” Mariano said. “We would be leaving the ones that are not able to (provide an app), which have delicate health programs.”
They are designing it accessible on the hosting agency GitHub, meaning code is open to public input.
Mariano said he wishes to add additional tools beyond the symptom checker, such as a self-help guide for mental healthcare.
The group is contemplating what the WHO refers to as proximity tracing.
Engineers have done preliminary work and talked to smartphone operating system manufacturers Apple and Google about possibly adopting technology the companies plan to release jointly this month to make cleanup easier.
The technology is based on virtual”handshakes” between mobiles that come within a few feet of each other for at least five minutes. Phones keep anonymised logs of these encounters, allowing someone who later tests positive to anonymously send notifications to recent connections regarding their potential exposure to the virus.
However, Mariano said legal and privacy considerations have prevented the WHO from committing to this feature nonetheless. He expressed concern about the many companies pitching proximity tools turning around and with any personal data they gather to create revenue later.
“We want to be sure we ring-fence each of the dangers around it,” he explained.
Apple and Google have said their system will not use any data for other functions and will be stopped as soon as the pandemic finishes.
The WHO plans to release guidance when next week on issues countries should think about as they consider their own proximity tracing apps.
To reach individuals with limited online access, the WHO is working to provide data via text messages. In March, it launched an accounts on Facebook’s WhatsApp to provide users with information about the coronavirus, and it succeeds with the organization’s Free Basics program to earn some information available without users incurring data fees.
The WHO also plans to release a program next week to inform health workers internationally about best practices for launching protective equipment, washing hands and treating the virus. The organization already has a general app, WHO Info, which mainly mirrors its site.