Digital tools cannot replace human capacity needed for contact tracing: WHO

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on June 09, 2020

Digital tools cannot replace the human capacity needed for contact tracing in the fight against Covid-19 according to the World Health Organisation.

“Contact tracing remains an essential element of the response,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had said at a press briefing on Monday. “We emphasise that digital tools do not replace the human capacity needed to do contact tracing,” he had said.

Many countries across the globe, including India, have launched digital tools “to assist with contact tracing and case identification.” The Indian government, for instance, had released the Aarogya Setu app for contact tracing urging citizens to install the same as part of multiple advisories and the newly published guidelines for ‘Unlock 1.0.’

Some tools are meant for health workers, while others are used for contact tracing and self-reporting of Covid-19 symptoms. However, these tools cannot replace the human capacity required to combat the global pandemic.

“As part of a comprehensive approach, digital contact-tracing tools offer the opportunity to trace larger numbers of contacts in a shorter period of time, and to provide a real-time picture of the spread of the virus,” Ghebreyesus had said. “But they can also pose challenges to privacy, lead to incorrect medical advice based on self-reported symptoms, and can exclude those who do not have access to modern digital technologies,” he said.

Evidence on effectiveness needed

The WHO chief had further said that countries will require more evidence about the effectiveness of these tools for contact tracing. WHO from today is also convening an online consultation on contact tracing for Covid-19 “to share technical and operational experience on contact tracing, including innovations in digital technology.”

The UN health agency had also released detailed guidelines for the use of digital tools for contact tracing earlier this month. Apart from this, WHO is also operating an online platform, the Covid-19 Partners Platform where countries can let their resource requirements know and other countries can pitch in for these resources.

“So far, 105 national plans have been uploaded, and 56 donors have entered their contributions, totalling US$3.9 billion,” the WHO chief said.

Published on June 09, 2020

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