A few residents across the nation have reported receiving a CoronaALERT text message on mobile phone advising them to take basic precautionary measures as they may have come in contact with someone known to have Coronavirus.
The alert reads that “It has been that you may have come in contact with a confirmed Coronavirus case in the last 14 days. You are, therefore, requested to take necessary precautionary measures by self-quarantine,”
It further advises the person to visit a nearby health center in case of developing symptoms like fever, cough, difficulty in breathing or body aches.
Telecom authorities have confirmed that the message is authentic. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) informed media that the message was being sent to selected people only. Those identified were duly screened by relevant authorities.
PTA officials said that sending out SMS alerts sending to people who might have come in contact with affected individuals during travel or at other places on at the request of the Ministry of Health.
The idea that relies in part on a cell phone tracking system is led by the government’s Digital Pakistan program. The system works by first identifying locations visited by a known Coronavirus patient over the last 14 days. When the owner of a phone tests positive for Coronavirus authorities use a record of their recent movements to notify owners of any other phones that recently came close to that phone of their risk of infection and advised them to self-isolate.
Head of Digital Pakistan Tania Aidrus informed media that we are using all possible types of data sources with the help of telecom providers and PTA for helping the health ministry in identifying maximum people at Coronavirus risk.
She maintained that she did not specify the extent to which public data was being used to identify clusters. We are doing everything to help contain the Coronavirus. These alerts should not create panic but encourage precaution for Coronavirus.
Phone location can be recorded using various methods. For example, mobile carriers can provide location data of phones using cell site location information (CSLI) based on which cell towers a phone connects to and when. As mobile devices transition between cell towers, the network also records events such as calls, SMS and data usage, alongside time and location, in the form of call detail records (CDRs).
Using CDR analysis, details such as locations visited by a confirmed Covid-19 patient as well as cell phone numbers of others who were in the same vicinity at the time can be obtained from the patient’s phone data.
Focal person of Punjab chief minister said that the government is already using the CDR method for contact tracing.
Other technologies such as GPS sensors built directly into phones and Bluetooth can also be used to acquire location data for more precision at a given time. However, the radius is not 100 per cent accurate.