COVID-19: Malaysia preparing smartphone application to track movements

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KUALA LUMPUR (March 26): Malaysia is preparing a smartphone application that can track movements of individuals in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, says Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) Khairy Jamaluddin.

He said a similar application had been launched in Singapore which has managed to successfully trace infections through the detection of close contacts.

"A few days ago, Singapore launched a mobile phone app called 'TraceTogether' that can track the movements of people so that in a positive case, they can look at the individual’s movement history and warn others who have been near the patient to be screened," he said while appearing as moderator of an online forum on MOSTI’s official Facebook page today.

The forum entitled Adapting to the Challenges of COVID-19 was attended by three panelists who are fellows of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia, namely Prof Datuk Dr Awang Bulgiba Awang Mahmud (epidemiologist); Prof Shamala Devi Sekaran (immunology and virology); and Prof Dr Mahendhiran Sangaran Nair (scientific and statistical data).

Launched on March 20, the TraceTogether app can identify people who have been within 2 metres of COVID-19 patients for at least 30 minutes, using wireless Bluetooth technology. Its developers say the app is useful when those infected cannot recall whom they had been in close proximity with for an extended duration.

Meanwhile, Mahendhiran said the implementation of such an application must be in line with robust regulation as well as educating the public on the importance of technology and data usage in the wellness industry.

"It’s about educating the population on how the data is used, a lot of awareness, and having regulatory framework on who gets to see and use the data, on what circumstances," he added.