Govt to tackle Covid-19 using data and healthcare workers, says Prof Karim

2020-04-17 14:43

Amid the threat of an "inevitable" exponential rise in Covid-19 cases, government is trying to keep one step ahead of the virus by using data strategies to record hotspots around the country.

During a Data@Breakfast seminar on Friday, Professor Salim Abdool Karim, an internationally-recognised epidemiologist and infectious diseases specialist who is working as the chairperson of the government advisory committee on Covid-19, explained that cellphones will be used to track the movements of health workers.

This approach is in preparation for an expected exponential rise in cases once South Africa’s lockdown ends.

The strategy is community based and aims to identify hotspots using the cellphones of community health workers who are going out to actively find Covid-19 cases.

Karim explained that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) had set up a technological hub – massive screens linked to data gathering sources – during the 2010 World Cup.

This hub will now be used in the fight against Covid-19 for live geo-mapping, depicting where healthcare workers have screened and tested people.

"Community health workers have to enter information on a cellphone and, when they press submit, the cellphone sends a location – not just that the person has been screened – that location pins itself on the screen at the CSIR, so that we know where we have covered the country with our screens," Karim explained.

READ: Explainer: What is Covid-19 contact tracing and how does it work? We ask an expert

But the system is not yet fully in place.

"We don’t have enough cellphones yet and the ones we have – about 20 000 or so – had to be charged, the software had to be loaded – all that takes a lot of time.

"As the phones become available, they are being discharged," Karim said.

The system aims to tackle Covid-19 by using data, he added.

"We will have knowledge about where we are going at our fingertips so we can make smart decisions and try keep one step ahead of this virus as much as we can.

"There will come a time where we can’t, but until then our hotspot strategy should go some way to flattening that curve," Karim said.

Read more on:    csir  |  salim abdool karim  |  health  |  lockdown  |  coronavirus  |  data

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