Eye on digital tools to aid Covid-19 fight as flights resume

As international flights resume tomorrow, the global health agency has issued public health considerations meant to guide countries as the battle against Covid-19 rages.

Dr Koki Mutua, Public Health director, on Friday said starting tomorrow passengers will be provided with a link from the airlines or booking agents, to access a surveillance form.A health desk set in place will have the passengers fill more details on their health. Passengers will be required to share their temperature readings for 14 days through the app.

Those who do not share the details will be traced and questioned, but Dr Mutua stated that the success of the procedure relies on passengers’ compliance.

The World Health Organisation said some countries are already using digital tools to aid contact tracing efforts.

These include mobile phones and apps for location tracking or proximity tracing, and some for symptom reporting during the 14-day post-arrival period.

While the WHO admitted that technology cannot replace public health contact tracing, it said it may be considered as an adjunct under specific conditions.

Mobile phones and apps can be effective in identifying and informing travellers who may have been in contact with a person confirmed to have Covid-19 or a positive test for Covid-19 only if a large proportion of the general population uses such an app.

According to WHO, for travellers, issues of compatibility and data sharing between countries need to be considered, should international contact tracing be warranted.

“Before adopting such digital tools, countries may want to consider legal and ethical aspects related to individual privacy and personal data protection.”

The Kenya Airways (KQ) will resume international passenger services on Saturday starting with the London, Dubai, Addis Ababa, Kigali, Dar es Salaam and Lusaka destinations.

During the month there will be a gradual increase in the network with flights to Paris, Mumbai, and Amsterdam. In Africa, the airline will operate flights to Accra, Dzaoudzi, Freetown, Harare, Kilimanjaro, Lagos, Monrovia, Moroni, Nampula, and Zanzibar. Based on demand and other factors, resumption of services to other destinations around the globe will occur.

In a statement, KQ said it has in place measures such as the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) by the flight crew and airport workers where necessary, and limited interaction between crew and passengers.

The airline is also providing sanitizer stations onboard and washing of hands will be encouraged by the crew onboard the flights.

In March the government launched an application that will aid in contact-tracing as it moves to tame the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
Through the application christened mSafari, Public Service Vehicles (PSV) operators and passengers will be required to provide critical data that will help trace back the movements of infected or suspected cases.

Matatus, taxis and motorbike operators will be required to collect contact details of every passenger which will automatically register on the mSafari platform.

All PSVs, including their owners and respective saccos will be required to enroll on the platform using their vehicle registration numbers.

Meanwhile, WHO added that it is essential to proactively communicate to the public through traditional media, social media and other channels about the rationale for gradually resuming international travels, the potential risk of travel and the measures required to ensure safe travel.

This is essential to build trust in travel advice, increase compliance with health advice and prevent the spread of rumours and false information.

“Timely and accurate communication on changes in international travel should target the general public, travellers, operators of the transport sector, health authorities and operators in other relevant sectors.”

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