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COVID-19 self-test and contact tracing as a way forward to managing the virus

Since last December, following the outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease, the world hasn't remained the same. The virus which affects the upper respiratory system has been referred to as a global pandemic seeing that almost every continent has recorded cases.

According to the National Center for Disease Control (NCDC), the virus can cause a range of symptoms, from mild illness to pneumonia, fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties as well as headaches.

Currently, the world has confirmed over 113 million cases, 63.5 million recovered, and 2.5 million people pronounced dead. While in Nigeria, there are over 15,000 confirmed cases, 13,000 recovered and 1,885 dead.

To curb the spread, countries around the world have been putting in place many measures to limit movements, social and religious gatherings, as well as encouraging citizens to maintain a social distance. Additionally, they advise citizens to take necessary precautions as mandated by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to escalate, one of the measures set up is contact tracing for citizens.

What is contact tracing and how will it help manage the virus?

Contact tracing is a process of identifying and monitoring individuals who may have come in contact with an infected person in a way to control the spread of a communicable disease.

It is used to break the transmission of diseases, manage pandemic to a minimal level and prevent future surges of cases. Experts have noted that dating back centuries, the use of contact tracing is one of the oldest public health schemes.

Once contacts of infected individuals have been traced, they are tested for the infection, isolated and treated. This, in turn, reduces the virus spread in the populace.

The WHO mentioned that "when systematically applied, contact tracing will break the chains of transmission of infectious disease and is thus an essential public health tool for controlling infectious disease outbreaks."

Contact tracing is commonly carried out for diseases that include tuberculosis, vaccine-preventable infections like measles, sexually transmitted infections (including HIV), blood-borne infections, ebola, serious bacterial infections, and novel infections; SARS-CoV, H1N1, and COVID-19.

In relating to COVID-19, contact tracing helps track down everyone a newly infected person has been near so as to be advised to self-isolate before spreading the virus further.

Mostly, the approach to contact tracing is the use of Bluetooth wireless radio to try to track nearby phones. As the phone constantly ejects a unique, anonymous signal, and listening to other signals being sent out, it can create a kind of address book of all the other people it has been near. This way, if its owner is infected with COVID-19, the app can send a warning to every phone it recently heard from.

For a city like Lagos with over 14,368,000 million people trooping in and out of the metropolitan, contact tracing becomes extremely important. For instance, in the UK, the government insists that people download the contact tracing app at the airport so as to curb the spread.

Similarly, in the U.S., Vice President, Mike Pence informed major airlines to proceed with the industry-led solution for the contact tracing of passengers as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

As various countries globally are addressing the spread of the virus with different measures most especially using the collection of data as a foundational base, [AI] Analytics Intelligence developed a data project called Project CVD19.

In partnership with Health Authorities, [AI] Analytics Intelligence will help track people with symptoms of the COVID-19 in Nigeria where data on tests and symptoms of people infected by the virus is limited.

The analytics and measurements project, called CVD19.ng, is a self-testing app that was standardised based on WHO guidelines. It does a quick diagnostic to identify if a person has symptoms of the virus. Using analysis and location-based information, clusters of infection can quickly be identified as hot-spot on a dashboard.

CVD19.ng uses location data to determine what areas have people with the possibility of low, medium and high-risk symptoms of the virus. The app allows users to obtain real-time data of the pandemic from NCDC.

To take a self-test today, simply log on to www.cvd19.ng