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WATCH | What you need to know about SA’s official Covid-19 tracing app

03 September 2020 - 06:40 By Unathi Nkanjeni
As part of SA's plan to fight the spread of Covid-19, the health department has launched a new app.
As part of SA's plan to fight the spread of Covid-19, the health department has launched a new app.
Image: 123RF / Nenetus

Almost six months after SA's first coronavirus case, the department of health has officially launched a Covid-19 contact tracing app.

The app, called Covid Alert SA, is available for download on Android and iOS Apple phones.

Here is what you need to know.

Bluetooth contact-tracing app

The Bluetooth contact-tracing app can track and trace those who have been in close contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19 early and refer them for appropriate management such as immediate testing, isolation, or quarantine.

“By downloading and using the Covid Alert SA app, you become a part of a powerful digital network of app users who choose to work together for the benefit of everyone in the app community while all enjoying complete privacy and anonymity.

“App users understand their exposure to Covid-19 and help others to do the same. We can all work together to curb the spread of Covid-19 and, ultimately, to save lives,” said the department.

Making tracing easy 

The app is free and uses only a small amount of data every day to check in with a central server.

The app anonymously keeps track of your contact with everyone else using it over a two-week period. If a user discloses they have tested positive for the coronavirus, everyone in that contact list is notified.

The department said Covid Alert SA makes contact tracing happen quickly and efficiently, unlike doing it manually.

“This app helps us to work together to stop the spread of Covid-19 using Bluetooth contact-tracing technology, which simply tracks close contact between smartphones, and not the actual location of the smartphones,” it said.

How does the app work? 

Covid Alert SA does not record your name, location, or require access to your health information.

Every device is assigned a unique code that each app user’s device runs through to check for a match between these codes and the codes it has stored in the past two-week period. If there is a match, the device notifies the user that they have potentially been exposed to Covid‑19

It uses Bluetooth to shares the code with other phones running the app when they come into range and records the signal strength for how close another person is and the date for any such contact. The app also tracks the proximity of smartphone devices to one another and how long they are in contact.

Anyone who tests positive for the virus must type in a PIN number that the department of health sends out by SMS with their Covid-19 results.

Watch the full explainer video below