Government launches the official COVID-19 contact tracing app

Following on from President Cyril Ramaphosa’s recent televised update, the Department of Health has officially launched its own COVID-19 contact tracing app that leverages the exposure notification framework that Apple and Google released earlier this year.

Available for both iOS and Android, the new app assists users in identifying whether they’ve come into close contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Using the exposure notification framework found within iOS or Android, the system wirelessly exchanges an identifier with other nearby smartphones (which are also using the exposure notification framework) over Bluetooth Low Energy.

In the event a person has tested positive for COVID-19, their ‘positive’ identifier will be shared with nearby devices, and will alert other users that they may have come into contact with, and contracted, COVID-19. Most importantly, the system is anonymised – no personal data is exchanged between devices.

Identifiers are exchanged between devices that are within two meters of one another for a period longer than 15 minutes and are retained for up to two weeks.

The app itself is an extension of the Department’s COVIDConnect suite, which enables users to retrieve their COVID-19 test results via SMS or WhatsApp. In addition to its main contact tracing feature, the app furthermore contains instructions on how to recognise symptoms or self-isolate.

The app itself does not require access to a user’s location or GPS, and does not store personal information beyond one’s COVID-19 test results should they choose to disclose their status. The app, at the very least, will hopefully give South Africans some peace of mind and will prove a more reliable form of contact tracing than simple pen and paper.

You can download the Department of Health’s COVID-19 contact tracing app here:

What are your thoughts? Do you plan to actively use this new tool? Let us know in the comments below.