Covid app now state’s answer to second wave

By Sizwe Gwala

Johannesburg – The mere sight of President Cyril Ramaphosa addressing the nation gets most South Africans agitated and sees them immediately enter a state of panic.

His updates have, in recent months, resulted in major interruptions in people’s livelihoods amid the COVID-19 national lockdown.

In his latest address, he emphasised that the virus is still a major issue facing the country and warned of growing “pandemic fatigue” and the possibility of its resurgence due to the public’s lax behaviour.

In spite of this, he pronounced a further easing of the current alert level 1 regulations including the hours when alcohol can be sold by liquor stores, alongside the reopening of international travel to all countries subject to health and safety regulations.

Immediately thereafter, infection rates drastically increased, with the Eastern Cape and Western Cape being classified as hotspots at the beginning of December.

The current infection rate and resultant fatalities indicate a possibility of the country having entered into a second wave of infections.

The predicament, however, is that Cupcake and his national coronavirus commanding council are caught between a rock and a hard place as they are unable to take drastic steps such as placing the country on higher alert levels.

This option is discounted due to the impact it previously had on the country’s economy and residents’ livelihoods.

Their only option is to place reliance on the Covid Alert SA mobile app as their strongest control for contact tracing and keeping tabs on the disease.

This app supposedly can notify users whenever they have been exposed to the virus, without sharing any personal information.

It is said to be completely anonymous as no personal data is stored in any database or data lake, making it compliant with privacy regulations in particular.

This approach has been adopted by various countries globally, with some having been successful, while others not.

When looking at European countries, Germany launched its “no cure-all” app, which by September had been downloaded by 17.8-million users and successfully generated alerts for several hundreds of cases of infections.

Although it is widely communicated that the local app will not store any data, one is of the view that this is mere deception as data is the only source required for alerts to be generated.

Having witnessed the number of data breaches recorded this year and with Werksmans Attorneys reporting that about 23.4-million South Africans’ personal information was compromised by August, more is required from the Health Department prior to the app receiving the required buy-in.

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