PH launches online platform for virus contact tracing

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines government's coronavirus task force has launched an online platform to trace people who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and provide them remote and instant consultations with health workers.  

Through a website and mobile application called StaySafe.ph, the National Task Force (NTF) COVID-19 and information technology company Multisys Technologies Corporation created an “emergency response system,” where Filipinos can report the health condition of their family members. 

The website, which went online on Thursday, April 9, was launched after the NTF and Multisys signed a memorandum of agreement for the project on Wednesday, April 8. 

Multisys, which will manage the platform, developed it for the government for free. 

How it works: Filipinos who register on the platform will be asked if they are showing symptoms for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.  

Among symptoms for the disease are  fever, cough, fatigue, muscle pain, runny nose, sore throat, shortness of breath, and diarrhea. 

The platform will come up with a result telling users if they have mild, moderate, or severe conditions. 

The system will then send an alert to frontliners, like health workers, if there are severe COVID-19 cases reported so they can conduct online consultations with the patients. 

Local government units and private companies will also have access to the platform’s administrative dashboard, which they can use to keep track of the number of confirmed cases, persons under investigation and monitoring, deaths, recovered patients, and the location of these patients.

Will personal data be safe? Multisys Founder and chief executive officer David Almirol Jr gave assurances the platform would only collect one’s nickname, contact number, age, email address, and location (which includes GeoLocation). The platform does not require users to disclose their full names. 

Aside from this, the platform may also collect other information shared and posted during its use, as well as users’ social media profiles, if they choose to link their accounts with it.  

Location data, it said, will be used to generate a heat map, which will show areas and number of people who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. 

Click here to read other details about the platform’s privacy protocols.

Potential impact. The NTF said it launched the platform with the aim of helping health workers, local government units, and companies conduct more efficient contact tracing.  

Contact tracing, or the work of finding close contacts and persons who may have been exposed to confirmed coronavirus cases, is a critical tool in trying to control the spread of the coronavirus. Coupled with physical distancing, it can serve as an effective means to contain the spread of the virus. 

Singapore’s meticulous contact-tracing efforts have been hailed by health experts as a crucial measure in keeping at bay the spread of coronavirus cases.

In the Philippines, contact tracing actions are underway, but health officials have had difficultly keeping up with the growing number of cases, which require locating more people. 

The Philippines’ health department earlier counted 259 contact travers from its offices and another 16,221 from primary health care facilities to aid in tracking patients positive for or suspected to have the coronavirus disease. 

As of Thursday afternoon, April 9, the number of positive cases in the country has climbed up to at least 4,076, including 203 deaths and 124 recoveries. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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