NATIONAL NEWS - Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has announced that the country has recorded 1 218 new cases of Covid-19, bringing the total number of cases to 628 259.
The country has also recorded 114 more Covid-19 deaths: 13 from KwaZulu-Natal, 39 from Gauteng, 7 from Eastern Cape, 7 from Free State, 20 from Western Cape, 18 from North West and 10 from Mpumalanga.
The total number of deaths is 14 263.
“We extend our condolences to the loved ones of the departed and thank the health care workers that treated the deceased patients. Our recoveries now stand at 549 993, which translates to a recovery rate of 87%,” said Mkhize.
The Department of Health is launching a powerful new mobile application, COVID Alert SA, to strengthen South Africa’s digital contact tracing efforts.
To date, the Department has deployed teams to conduct manual contact tracing in every district. Subsequently, the WhatsApp-based COVIDConnect service was launched which allows index cases to anonymously notify their contacts as prompted by the system.
The COVID Alert SA app will complement and strengthen these existing methods, as a tool to enable the instant notification of contacts following a positive test.
COVID Alert SA is built on the exposure notification Application Programming Interface (API) developed by Apple and Google to enable contact tracing through mobile phones. The app is fully privacy-preserving, in line with the requirements of the API, and does not collect any personally identifiable information or trace a user’s location, said the department in a statement.
Using Bluetooth, the COVID Alert SA app emits a randomly generated code that is picked by other users when two phones come into proximity of one another. This unique identifier changes frequently and cannot be linked to the identity of any user. Over time, each user builds an “encounter history” of those they have been in contact with.
When a user tests positive, they are requested to report their diagnosis anonymously in the COVID Alert SA app. When the user does so, all other users with whom they have been in contact for the past 14 days will immediately be notified of their exposure and prompted through the care pathway. At no point in this process is the identity of any user revealed.
Bluetooth-enabled contact tracing apps allow a greater number of contacts to be traced more rapidly, including strangers whom an index case may not be able to recall or identify. The App is zero rated to facilitate optimal citizen uptake.
Says Director General of Health, Dr Sandile Buthelezi: “Global experience has demonstrated the risk of a resurgence once restrictions on social and economic activity are lifted. While the trajectory of the epidemic in South Africa has stabilised, such a resurgence remains a real and present danger in our own country.
“COVID Alert SA provides us with additional armament to achieve suppression of the virus and prevent outbreaks from occurring again by eliminating the time-consuming steps it takes to achieve contact tracing manually. This technology allows us to effectively break the chain of transmission by dramatically reducing the time between exposure and knowing one has been exposed so that one can take action by self-quarantining and testing when necessary.”