Gh-COVID-19 Tracker upgraded

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Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, Minister of Communications

Ministry of Communications, through its partners has upgraded the GH COVID-19 Symptoms Tracker App – launched five months ago.

The upgraded version comes with enhanced features to deliver better and more user friendly services in the quest to battle the outbreak of the virus in the country.

The upgraded app is to augment the nation’s effort at easing of restrictions on movement and the opening up of airport to travellers which begun on September 1.

With the upgraded platform, healthcare staff will be able to contact patients and track movement of COVID-19 live cases.

The new platform can also alert users on moving out of allowed areas, report case breaches to the authorities and push notifications to bulk users among others.

The updated features of the Gh-COVID-19 Tracker and USSD include: symptoms checker, emergency helplines, COVID-19 FAQs and Latest Health Expert Advice.

Other features are self-quarantine registration, events and venue management, live Updates on COVID-19 cases and heat maps to show live nearby hotspots.

According to the Minister of Communications, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, these new feature are necessary to aid the nation open up its economy.

“It is critical that the GH COVID 19 Tracker becomes an integrated application for tracking symptoms, contact tracing and quarantine management to enable us open the economy even more and safely too.

The Ministry of Communications along with the Ghana Health Service are mandated to ensure the use of the application by all citizens and enterprises across Ghana.

Using technology, we will build an economy which is safe and creates an environment of collaboration where everyone contributes to reduce the infection rate.

The GH COVID-19 Tracker is based on the Centre for Disease Control CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) Guidelines and it is continuously updated to reflect current COVID-19 protocols,” the minister said at an event to re-launch the app.

AU PANABIOS

She added that in addition to this, the government is also piloting the African Union (AU) platform PANABIOS (www.panabios.org) to leverage its digital infrastructure in this pioneering efforts.

For her, with the gradual easing of restrictions on conferences, exhibitions, conventions and other social gatherings extreme care must be taken to minimise the risk of a second wave of infections and few mechanisms offer us the capabilities to balance these delicate competing interests of stemming disease spread whilst also restoring our socioeconomic lives to normalcy like technology, especially digital technology.

“On June 1, 2020, I notified the country of government’s intention to utilize technology to transform the current COVID-19 crisis into an opportunity to build resilience into critical national structures and to create a digital shield, leveraging on existing systems

Ghana has been selected as the pioneer country for the deployment of the PanaBIOS platform, an initiative under the AU Open Corridors Initiative and the Africa CDC’s Saving Lives, Economies and Livelihoods programme.

The updated Gh COVID-19 Tracker app and PanaBios will ensure a unified, national, digital strategy to manage our nation’s response to COVID-19 through technology.

During the just ended voter registration exercise, the Electoral Commission used these platforms to reduce the intensity of congestion and facilitate social distancing after the initial hiccups,” Mrs. Owusu-Ekuful said.

Ghana Digital Tracking strategy  

The minister intimated that some digital tracking measures being deployed include; Working with our diplomatic missions to ensure that COVID-19 tests taken at most, 72 hours prior to travellers arriving in Ghana, can be securely verified on PanaBIOS, thereby reducing the risk of COVID-positive passengers arriving in the country in the first place.

This will minimize the risk of fake declarations.

Also, digital tracking and monitoring of all tests performed on arrival for biosecurity planning.

This enables the relevant health and security authorities to continually monitor the trend of positives and negatives and adjust the country’s entry protocols accordingly.

The nation is setting up system to ensure digital surveillance of all meetings, conferences and exhibitions conducted at hotels, convention centers and other potential COVID-19 infection & transmission hotspots.

This will proactively identify potential spikes and facilitate intervention before runaway infection spread can commence.

A system has been set up to certify electronic validation for all vaccination cards, including yellow fever cards, as well as supply chain and adverse reactions monitoring, in anticipation of the eventual release and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“We cannot cut corners and corrupt the system from its inception as some have done with the yellow fever vaccine card acquisition, and only technology provides the means to weed out quacks and cheats”.

“Digital monitoring and quality validation of rapid diagnostic tests to prevent fraud, gaming, and evasion as the government embarks on preventive bio-screening as a means of keeping the pandemic and future epidemics under control,” the minister said.

International Implications 

She added that: “It is important to remember that these undertakings have a regional and international context and dimension, and we are working closely with the AU, the Africa CDC, ECOWAS and UNECA. The UN Africa Communications and Information Platform (ACIP), an initiative to develop an Africa-wide COVID-19 app for health and economic action is also utilizing Ghana’s COVID-19 tracker app which has a symptom tracker and event management module.  ACIP had a survey as part of their application and I encourage all to take the survey on the GH COVID-19 app short code.

It is obvious that we cannot go it alone and must work to build regional systems that are sustainable and protect all Africans, regardless of their level of development. We must also look beyond today and plan ahead. How long can we expect people to pay for tests on arrival at our airports and how will that impact on the cost of travel, the success of the open skies initiative and the implementation of the AfCFTA among others? The data we gather from these apps will help answer these questions and help us build resilient systems that will ultimately hasten our return to normalcy.”

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