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Tech in the time of pandemic: How Aarogya Setu app has been helping people in fighting the Chinese coronavirus

The pandemic is unprecedented and no one was prepared for it. Public participation is essential for the government to control the spread. Aarogya Setu helps in contact tracing so that early detection can be done and we get one step closer to winning over the virus.

Few days back, a friend of mine got fever and lost her sense of taste. While she did not have cough or cold, the loss of taste has been one of the classic Chinese coronavirus symptoms. Panicky, she tried reaching out to hospitals for getting her test done but they all needed doctor’s prescription. She tried calling the COVID-19 helpline but could not get through.

“Did you try marking your symptoms on Aarogya Setu app? Maybe that could give us an idea on what to do next,” I suggested. Problem with today’s day and age is that there is so much information overdose that when you want one specific information, that evades you when you really need it. She marked her symptoms on Aarogya Setu app and her status turned to ‘high risk’. Usually, if you do not display any symptoms of COVID-19 and have not come in close contact with COVID-19 positive individual, your status will be ‘safe’.

Aarogya Setu app marking me as ‘safe’

Within hours, the health ministry officials got in touch with her through the registered phone number and her testing was carried out. When my friend’s status changed on Aarogya Setu, there was a change in my Aarogya Setu data as well as I had met her a week prior when I visited her place. This is how my ‘contact’ data looked.

2 people I met in last 30 days are ‘high risk’

As can be seen, Aarogya Setu establishes contact with other device via bluetooth and once that person’s records in the server change, the change is reflected in everyone’s app who came in close contact with that person. Thankfully, my friend tested negative for coronavirus and has recovered from her seasonal fever too. However, from the time my friend’s status changed on her app till the time she got back her reports, I had isolated myself at home on my own. One can never be too careful.

Aarogya Setu and contact tracing

Speaking of being careful, here is what recently happened to a distant relative of mine. First of all, despite restrictions on large gatherings, a bunch of people gathered together at a wedding function. The virus isn’t going anywhere, right? We’ve to learn to live with it and take precautions.

So, while the gatherings wasn’t large, as is usual in Indian weddings, it still had significant number of people. One of the ladies who attended the function eventually tested positive for coronavirus. The health officials, through Aarogya Setu contact tracing were able to trace every individual who came in close proximity of the lady. Of the 37 people traced via her Aarogya Setu, 3 were asymptomatic carriers and also tested positive.

In another case, one of my friend’s colleague tested positive for coronavirus. Aarogya Setu status turned ‘orange’ (moderate risk) for a few people and ‘red’ (high risk) for some depending on the proximity and time they had spent with the colleague. Thankfully, none of them tested positive for coronavirus later on.

There are many such instances where contact tracing through Aarogya Setu app has helped health officials trace even asymptomatic carriers in a bid to contain the infection.

In fact, in case you come in contact with someone who has been infected, the app lets you know how long you have been in touch with that person so you can trace back your steps and self-isolate and see if you develop symptoms.

Time one came in contact of infected person

An individual came in contact with an infected person for a few minutes and this is how it propped up.

Aarogya Setu is indicative, not conclusive

Aarogya Setu app can help the health authorities with contact tracing and inform individuals like you and I on how much at risk we are at getting infected. It, however, cannot inform you that you are infected. Even if you mark your symptoms as unwell, the app asks you to get yourself tested as you are ‘at risk’. An individual’s status on app changes to ‘infected’ once your test results are updated on government servers.

Further, there are myths floating around. Some people are afraid to put in details in Aarogya Setu fearing that the health authorities will come and take them away if the app diagnoses them as infected. This, however, is not true. App only indicates you that you may be at a risk of getting infected and urges you to get tested. Further, it informs health authorities to follow up with you in case you are at risk. This still needs to be communicated as some people still believe so. The app and our healthcare system can work only with transparency of data.

For the app to work it is important that it gets public support. Usage of Aarogya Setu app should be internalised and made the new normal like wearing masks and washing and cleaning hands.

The pandemic is unprecedented and no one was prepared for it. Public participation is essential for the government to control the spread. Aarogya Setu helps in contact tracing so that early detection can be done and we get one step closer to winning over the virus.

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Nirwa Mehtahttps://medium.com/@nirwamehta
Politically incorrect. Author, Flawed But Fabulous.

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