CORONAVIRUS/Public encouraged to use contact tracing app as COVID-19 cases rise

05/14/2021 05:57 PM
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Health Minister Chen Shih-chung mentions the contact tracing app during Friday
Health Minister Chen Shih-chung mentions the contact tracing app during Friday's COVID-19 press briefing. Photo courtesy of the CECC

Taipei, May 14 (CNA) People in Taiwan can use a smartphone app, developed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), to help with the government's contact tracing efforts, amid a spike in the number of domestically transmitted COVID-19 cases, health officials said Friday.

As of Friday, the Taiwan Social Distancing App had gained more than 800,000 downloads, while the country reported a record 29 new community infections of COVID-19, CDC Deputy Director General Lo Yi-chun (羅一鈞) said at a press briefing.

The app, which is currently available only in Chinese, has a contact tracing feature and offers monetary incentives to people who download it and to COVID-19 patients who agree to the use of their information, according to the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), which is promoting it by means of an online campaign.

Users who access the contact tracing feature are eligible to participate in a lottery on the CDC's Facebook page for a chance to win a NT$500 (US$17.87) voucher for purchases at PX Mart supermarkets, the CECC said.

Confirmed COVID-19 patients who agree to the use of their information will each receive a NT$5,000 voucher, also for spending at PX Mart, the CECC added.

"The COVID-19 outbreak has become very challenging. If more people use the app, it will allow speedier contact tracing and notification," Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the CECC, said at the press briefing.

According to the CECC, the app works by accessing the user's contacts via bluetooth on mobile devices and sends an alert to people who may have come within 2 meters of an infected patient for at least two minutes, urging them to contact health authorities.

The app, which has been available on Apple's App Store and Google Play since April, is a customized version of a contact tracing feature the two tech giants introduced on their respective mobile operating systems -- iOS and Android -- according to the CDC.

It does not require the registration of personal information, and all data collected is stored anonymously on the device, unless health authorities are given consent to gain access to it, the CDC said.

On Friday, Taiwan reported 29 new domestic COVID-19 infections -- the highest number in a single day since the outbreak began in January 2020 -- and five imported cases.

(By Kay Liu)


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