Everything You Need To Know About Contact Tracing | The Full Frontal

Everything You Need To Know About Contact Tracing

While I’m aware that many people have been inconvenienced by the Movement Control Order (MCO) period, for me personally it’s been pretty swell. Aside from the occasional grocery run, I can actually just sit in my room all day and no one will complain. Heck, if going out to get groceries ever got too troublesome I can even order stuff delivered straight to my doorstep. 

But alas, all good things must come to an end, and we’re seeing it now with the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO). Restaurants are starting to reopen, offices are arranging meetings to decide whether or not it’s safe to come back in, and people are cautiously poking their heads outside again.  

Well, most people, anyway. I’m staying firmly in my hole for the time being. 

While many people have been eagerly waiting for the chance to return to work – or at least, to start making money again – I’m personally dreading the thought. Not because I dislike my job, but because going back to the office means I’ll need to wake up before dawn to hop on the LRT line. 

Considering the current situation, can you really blame me for not wanting to be stuck in a crowded train filled with people who may or may not be sick? On the flip side, staying at home all year round is an untenable situation – even for someone as antisocial as me. 

Has Hari Raya Been Cancelled?

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Sadly, there’ll be no balik kampung for most of us this year. Source: Culture Trip

During an address on May 1, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin made it clear that there’s no way we can balik kampung or hold open houses during CMCO. 

“Interstate travel for balik kampung trips during the Aidilfitri holidays is not allowed,” he said, adding that Hari Raya open houses, ‘kenduri’, and large breaking of fast events are also not allowed.

And before you ask: yes, I know we’re technically allowed to have 20 people visiting our homes during Hari Raya, but how are you going to do social distancing with so many people around? Heck, if you live in an apartment like me, how are you even going to fit that many people in the first place? 

That said, while we can’t visit our grandparents in Seremban like on a normal Hari Raya season, there are still plenty of ways we can celebrate. The thing is, we have to be responsible. Travelling around safely during this CMCO period relies on two things: common sense and technology. 

What Is Contact Tracing?

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The faster at-risk individuals can get tested, the better. Source: The Jakarta Post

It’s been used in pandemics all across the world, from the 1930s syphilis spread in the USA to the 2014 ebola outbreak in West Africa. To put it simply, contact tracing is a way to identify anyone who may have come into contact with an infected person, allowing medical professionals to track down and test them before they spread the virus any further. 

However, COVID-19 has been particularly tricky to contain for several reasons, including the fact that some infected people never show any symptoms at all. Trying to manually track every single potential infected person would be almost impossible. 

Fortunately, that’s where technology comes into play. 

Everything is an App Now

There really is an app for everything.

Our government has set up several mobile apps in order to help ensure that contact tracing can still be done as travel restrictions are slowly lifted for CMCO. Currently, there are at least 3 different apps: GerakMalaysia, MySejahtera, and MyTrace. Each of these apps is meant for a different purpose, but they can all be downloaded for free by the public to help curb the spread of COVID-19. 

1) Gerak Malaysia

Developed by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), Gerak Malaysia was meant to help people register or apply for interstate travel instead of forcing them to manually apply at police stations. 

It’s designed to help police keep tracking and analysing the user’s movements nationwide. According to Bukit Aman Criminal Investigation Department (CID) director Datuk Huzir Mohamed, the updated app was necessary for authorities to identify those who did not apply for interstate travel. 

“There are now 503,000 applicants and only 147,516 users have been confirmed to conduct interstate travel,” he said during a press conference in Bukit Aman during the first week of May. 

You can download the Gerak Malaysia app HERE

2) MySejahtera

MySejahtera was developed as a one-stop app where you can get all the latest information and statistics on the pandemic. 

Aside from that, it also has a self-evaluation feature: you fill up a questionnaire about your current health status and it’ll provide a result that shows whether you’re at risk and any necessary actions you might need to take. According to Director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, this feature was included to help the Ministry of Health (MOH) obtain early information on the health of an individual for prompt and effective action. 

“Among functions of the MySejahtera app is as hotspot tracker, where the user can get more information on Covid-19 hotspots within 1 kilometre from them, or through searching,” he added. “It also provides information on the nearest Covid-19 screening facilities and online advice.”

You can download the MySejahtera app HERE.

3) MyTrace

Developed by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI), MyTrace is a Bluetooth-based app designed to help authorities detect those who might have been in close contact with COVID-19 patients. 

Unlike MySejahtera or Gerak Malaysia, MyTrace doesn’t ask for any in-depth details such as name, address, or IC number. It just needs your phone number and that’s it. 

MyTrace is designed to be unobstructive – all you have to do is let it have Bluetooth and location access and it can run quietly in the background while you go about your day. “MyTrace complements the MySejahtera app. Both apps are free,” said Datuk Hisham. 

The only problem? It’s not available on iOS right now, only Android devices. 

You can download the MyTrace app HERE.

But Why Do We Need These Apps?

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The worst part about MCO so far? No Ramadan bazaars this year.

Well, mainly because if we want this pseudo-lockdown situation to end and everything to return to normal, we need to cooperate with the authorities. These apps are meant to help frontline workers detect any new COVID-19 infections and intervene before it can spread to too many people. 

Even our PM has been urging people to do their part to help our medical practitioners.

“In our effort to combat Covid-19, contact tracing is important. Medical workers must know if anyone has been in contact with a Covid-19 positive patient,” he said. “I hope those with mobile phones download these apps to help the Health Ministry with contact tracing as this is part of our responsibility.”

Is It Big Brother Time?

Who else might be able to track our movements? Source: ittogo.co.uk

Personally, I did feel a bit worried about downloading an app that is specifically meant to track where I’m going at all times, but fortunately Science, Technology and Innovation Minister (MOSTI) Khairy Jamaluddin made it a point to reassure people that the data is not being used for nefarious purposes. 

For example, the MyTrace app simply allows the government to track and identify anyone who might have contracted COVID-19 from another patient. The data only stays on the phone for 21 days and the app only works when the user’s Bluetooth is on. 

In an interview on May 8, he mentioned that Google and Apple were both strict with the use of Bluetooth technology, and anyone who used their application programming interface (API) had to make sure the data was not stored in any centralised government server. 

“It is decentralised on the user’s phone,” said Khairy. “Whoever you have been in close contact with, I can’t access that unless you give me permission at the point of you being tested.” 

An Unfortunate Necessity

Despite my own reservations, I did end up downloading the MySejahtera app eventually. But since I use an iPhone and have no intention of leaving the state, I’ve passed on the other two for the time being. 

Am I happy about having what amounts to a tracker in my phone? Of course not. But considering the current situation, I can see why it’s necessary. While not everyone is willing to pitch in, the fact is that the more people cooperate, the faster this will end. 

In the meantime, click HERE for some tips on how to stay healthy even if you’re stuck at home like me. For more information, you can also follow our Twitter to keep up to date with all the latest news and events.