A technology to track infected persons

Panel of Joint Secretaries gives in-principle nod to IPS officer’s proposal

March 20, 2020 01:58 am | Updated 01:58 am IST - CHENNAI

R. Rohith Nathan

R. Rohith Nathan

Tamil Nadu IPS officer R. Rohith Nathan and his paediatrician-wife Kaveri Subbiah have submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Home Affairs to deploy a technology involving analysis of technical data, artificial intelligence and geo-fencing to effectively control the spread of COVID-19. Mr. Rohith, the Sivaganga SP, said the Ministry had approved the proposal in principle.

The focus is to use advanced technology to trace people who have come in contact with infected persons and assess their health condition for appropriate treatment or isolation. The system would also ensure that those recommended for isolation would follow the set protocol strictly and not pose a threat to the uninfected population. Analysing the precise location coordinates, movement and other activities of the infected/isolated persons to assess risk ratio and launch mitigation plans is part of the proposal sent to the Centre last fortnight.

The officer was invited to give a presentation to a panel of Joint Secretaries in New Delhi on Monday. “The panel has agreed in principle to implement the proposal across the country. We are in the process of formulating the Standard Operating Procedure to launch the digital surveillance system in Tamil Nadu to control coronavirus,” Mr. Rohith told The Hindu on Thursday.

“Using technology, we can aid the testing process to trace the coronavirus and contain its growth. Provisions of the Epidemic Disease Act 1897 can be used to permit live monitoring of cellular infrastructure without it being an infringement of privacy,” he said. “Today’s emergency health crisis requires authorities to remain one step ahead of the coronavirus. By using technology to bolster the healthcare professionals on the ground we can better contain the disease,” he added.

Presently, health officials are relying on the travel history shared by the affected person. Instead, cellular network meta data and digital footprints could be used to accurately assess the risk factors. “We will precisely know the number of people who were in the same tower location as that of the infected person. Health workers can reach out to those people and check their health status. There is technology to zero in on the proximity of other mobile phone users to the infected person,” the officer explained. “Persons who have symptoms or under the risk group can be quarantined and their compliance with the isolation standards can be ensured using geofence,” he said.

The platform once instituted could be used to contain the spread of any such epidemic and will be a long-term investment for the government’s disaster response infrastructure. Health authorities in Israel, China and Japan were working on similar lines to curb COVID-19.

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