Najib: Add 'exposure notification' on MySejahtera to aid contact tracing

·2-min read
Najib: Add 'exposure notification' on MySejahtera to aid contact tracing
Najib: Add 'exposure notification' on MySejahtera to aid contact tracing

Former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak has urged the government to incorporate the Google/Apple Exposure Notification System (Gaen) into the MySejahtera mobile app.

This is to help expedite contact tracing of Covid-19 close contacts and relieve strain on health inspectors, he said.

“With this system, the government’s burden of tracing close contacts would become far lighter.

“The sooner and the more Covid-19 close contacts are traced, the lower their chances of transmitting the disease if they turn out to be infected, and the sooner Covid-19 can be overcome,” he said on Facebook today.

Previously, Malaysiakini reported that overwhelmed district health offices could not immediately reach thousands of Covid-19 close contacts each day.

For Selangor alone, a source claimed this averaged more than 6,000 close contacts a day.

Tracing, testing and isolating Covid-19 close contacts is a key measure for successful containment of the disease, but must be done quickly to be effective.

According to a study published last year, contact tracing will fail to contain a Covid-19 outbreak if it takes three or more days, even if all close contacts are eventually found and isolated. This is because of the fast-spreading nature of the disease.

Gaen was developed by tech giants Apple and Google, and has been incorporated into the iOS and Android mobile operating systems since May last year.

It allows health authorities to build applications that facilitate Bluetooth-proximity based contact tracing, and has features to help preserve privacy.

Health authorities in more than 30 countries such as the US, UK, Canada, New Zealand, and Japan have done so.

The system is also touted to have a lesser impact on the phone’s performance and battery life compared to similar apps that don’t use it, since it is built into the phone’s operating system.

Gaen-based apps use the phone’s Bluetooth function to detect other app users who come within 10m.

If a person tests positive for Covid-19, they may use the app to anonymously send a notification to other users who may be potential close contacts, so they may self-isolate and seek testing.

Malaysia also has a Bluetooth-proximity based contact tracing app called MyTrace but it does not use the Gaen system.

In comparison to MySejahtera, MySejahtera records user’s entry into various venues and has other additional functions, instead of detecting proximity between users.

The Android version of MyTrace has not been updated since April last year, while the iOS version does not work.

In addition, Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin promised to release the source code of the MyTrace app to allay privacy concerns, but this has yet to be done.