Stay Safe: A system for COVID-19 spread prevention

Two key challenges in preventing the spread of COVID-19 are contact tracing of the infected and the free moment of the possible carriers. Stay Safe is software solution that addresses both these challenges in one go. Developed by two volunteer software professionals, with the guidance and support of Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) this easy to use, straightforward and surprisingly simple tool will be beneficial for the preventive authorities, commercial and state sector establishments and above all citizens.

How Stay Safe works

Stay Safe is based on QR-codes. Every relevant organization is given a unique QR-code. Anyone with an Internet linked smart phone can generate a QR-code for an organization, irrespective whether it is a super market or tiny vegetable shop or whether it is government or private by providing few simple details like name of the organization, street address, name of the contact person and contact details. Then all what remains is to take a print and display it at the entrance of the organization – a large organization can have one placed at the exit too.

Any individual enters the premises ‘checks-in’ by scanning the QR code with a smart phone. The system then automatically collects the details of the device and records them. Functionally, this process is not different than a guess registry maintenance – which most organizations already do, fulfilling a mandatory requirement according to the recently issued gazette on Corona Virus Disease 2019 (Preventive Measures) Regulations. Ideally there is also a ‘check-out’ but even one scan will establish Person A was at Super market P, Branch Q on November 22 at 11.34 am. Unlike in case of a book, where information stays on pages, these details will be shared in one large database on Lanka Government Cloud (LGC) hosted by ICTA. That data is then ready for queries.

How COVID-19 Preventive Authorities benefit

At central database, information thus collected can be collated in reports that traces Person A’s tracks on a particular day or a longer period. Stay Safe also provides a detailed list of first and second contacts based on this information with contact numbers of each. Currently, health authorities spend hours for the same process. Stay Safe can generate the same reports within seconds. It speeds the tracking of contacts and directs them for quarantine, minimizing the risk of spread.

How an organization benefits

Take the example of a beauty parlor. It is easier and more economical for the owner to have a QR-code displayed (that is all needs to be done) than maintaining a register. She will know who came in, at what time and how long each stayed, on daily or weekly basis. Most importantly, she will immediately know if a COVID-19 positive individual enters the premises.

How citizens benefit

The ultimate beneficiaries of the system are citizens. It reduces the spread of COVID-19. Then it tracks the movements of citizens – which otherwise would be a task of his/her. Stay Safe also creates a safe country by assisting authorities to track the spread allowing control within right time.

Stay Safe also flags COVID-19 positives. So in the unlikely event that a known COVID-19 patient roams around the system sends a trigger. In future versions this facility can be extended to cover those who are under quarantine preventing them too enter public places.

What will be the next

Around 60-70 per cent of Sri Lanka population owns a mobile phone with half of them, a smart phone – a device mandatory for a QR scan. So it is apparent Stay Safe application, in its initial stage, includes only a section of the population. Others might not be kept out of the system for long. A second phase solution is already underway to those who own a basic or a feature phone. Instead of scanning a QR code, owners of such phones have to send an SMS indicating the unique identity code for each location. The third category is those who do not own a phone. The only way to take them into the system is to provide each with a QR code so at locations the process happens the opposite way. The shop owner scans the QR code and enters data to the system. The rest will be the same.

Way forward…

Stay Safe maybe an advanced tech solution, but no system will be of use unless it is adopted. Authorities will have a pay a crucial role in its adoption by the community. This may include having conducive policies, creating awareness and reward early adopters. Once the community sees the benefits, the evolution will be natural. Then it will be a matter of time it detects the red spots, more effectively, quicker and with least inconvenience to the citizens.