Introduction:

WebForum Series 5 – Impact of contact tracing in Fighting COVID-19

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and spreads from person-to-person through droplet and contact transmission. Efforts have been made to manage and control the spread of COVID-19. These interventions are enforced with the need to break the chains of human-to-human transmission, ensuring that the number of new cases generated by each confirmed case is maintained below 1 (effective reproduction number < 1).

Contact tracing is thus part of this comprehensive strategy that includes case identification, isolation, testing and care, and quarantine. Contact tracing is the process of identifying, assessing, and managing people who have been exposed to a disease to prevent onward transmission.

When systematically and properly applied, contact tracing can be effective in break the chains of transmission of an infectious disease and is thus an essential public health tool for controlling infectious disease outbreaks.  In the case of COVID-19, contact tracing requires identifying persons who may have been exposed to COVID-19 and following them up daily for 14 days from the last point of exposure

In countries with declining numbers of confirmed cases of COVID-19, lockdown measures are gradually being lifted. However, even if most physical distancing measures are continued, other public health measures will be needed to control the epidemic. Contact tracing via conventional methods or mobile app technology is central to control strategies during de-escalation of physical distancing. We aimed to identify key factors for a contact tracing strategy to be successful.

Contract tracing tools that include mobile apps have been designed and have been largely helpful in mitigating the spread on the virus, however, there have been cases where concerns have been raised with the issue of privacy

Our 5th Series in the Crisis Management Conversation WebForum fireside will focus on the theme: Impact of contact tracing in Fighting COVID-19
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Our Panel of speakers will discuss among others

  • Use of technology such as mobile apps to reduce delays in the contact tracing process and optimize contact tracing coverage.
  • Developing innovative local solutions that are not costly yet effective for Africa
  • Challenges to contact tracing technology including, smartphone penetration within the populations, the  issue of false negatives—instances where these apps will fail to flag individuals as potentially at risk
  • Most apps lack privacy protection measures for personal data, what could be done to ensure they include encryption, anonymity, and secure storage of any data collected.
  • How can big data be used to improve eHealth? And how has COVID challenged the health sector in general
  • Optimization of tools to enhance access to testing.
  • How can the health sector partner with tech, academics, and other stakeholders to improve the emergency response for pandemics in the future?

Resources:

  • Contact tracing in the context of COVID-19 (WHO)
  • Resources for Conducting Contact Tracing to Stop the Spread of COVID-19 (CDC)
  • Digital contact-tracing and pandemics: Institutional and technological preparedness in Africa (NCBI)
  • Digital Contact Tracing Efforts Hampered by Privacy Concerns (GovTech)
  • Contact-tracing apps are not a solution to the COVID-19 crisis (Brookings)
  • Digital contact tracing’s mixed record abroad spells trouble for US efforts to rein in COVID-19 (TC)
  • What Ever Happened to Digital Contact Tracing? (Lawfare)
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