The South African Government has launched a new app, COVID Alert SA, has been launched to help alert citizens when they come into contact with someone who has been infected.
The development of this app has been mentioned since early in lockdown, but has taken a while to be released.
Although it’s now out, the app is only as effective as the amount of people who use it. This is because its voluntary and logging your details and granting access is how the app knows whether you or others have been in contact with each other – and their COVID-19 status.
Available for Android and iOS, the government is encouraging all citizens to sign up.
How it works
App users have to report their COVID-19 status on the app. Although this is anonymous, the app will then send out a notification to all devices that have been in close contact with the person’s device.
This exposure notice doesn’t identify the person, but rather advises them what to do next to make sure they are well and that they don’t spread the virus to others.
The app uses Bluetooth to track devices. It tracks Bluetooth signals to exchange ‘random codes’ (random numbers that change every so often) with other COVID Alert SA app users. This happens when their smartphones are within 2 metres of each other for more than 15 minutes.
The government describes this as a “digital handshake”. They assure users it doesn’t use GPS, location tracking or information access.