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Health ministry hails success of Covid-19 track and trace system

The health ministry has hailed the success of CovidConnect saying more users, however, needed to come on board.
The health ministry has hailed the success of CovidConnect saying more users, however, needed to come on board.
Image: Supplied/ Department of Health

The health ministry on Friday hailed the success of its electronic track and tracing system for Covid-19 patients and their contacts via cellphones.

“We are pleased to announce that since the system went live in June it has yielded some positive results. Between June 28 and July 15, it has dispatched 674,380 SMSs to users nationwide and relayed 326,522 test results.”

Almost 40,000 users have engaged with the service, said health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize.

“But this is not enough,” he added, saying the surge of the pandemic required more people to use such platforms.

He explained how the app worked.

“When a patient tests for coronavirus, the information is picked up from the lab form and informs the patient of the test result, whether positive or negative, by SMS. If the result is positive, the system prompts the patient for further information to identify their contacts. The system then immediately dispatches alerts via SMS to those contacts without disclosing the index patient’s details and prompts them on the next steps to take,” said Mkhize.

“The nondisclosure of the patient’s name is to ensure that their privacy is protected and also to make sure that after a contact's details are made available that person’s privacy is also protected.”

The system was able to probe patients on further aspects which would determine whether they should self-isolate at home or report to designated health care facilities.

If an app user reported positive test results, the app continued to send information throughout their isolation period with tips and health advice.

Users did not need to have a smartphone to have access to the service.

For those with smartphones, they could access the system by adding ‘0600123456’ to their phone books, sending a “hello” to the contact via WhatsApp.

“If you do not have a smartphone, just dial *134*832# and follow the prompts,” Mkhize said.

Answering questions from reporters, Mkhize said it was not too late for the system to be introduced, adding that behind the scenes, government had been working on refining it and legalising its usage and also ensuring it was completely safe to use.

So far, the system had been tried out in several areas deemed as Covid-19 hotspots.

He admitted however, that the ministry had experienced some resistance and reluctance from some people.