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Vietnam to use technology to trace COVID-19 virus

When COVID-19 broke out in some localities, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc asked the National Steering Committee on COVID-19 Prevention and Control, ministries and branches, and provincial and municipal authorities to implement urgent measures to prevent and fight the virus.

He said it was necessary to ask people to install the Bluezone app on their phones and follow the 5K principle: Khau trang (facemasks), Khu khuan (disinfection), Khoang cach (distance), Khong tu tap (no gathering), and Khai bao y te (health declaration).

Bluezone is a Bluetooth, low-energy solution that can be installed on smartphones. The platform, developed by government-owned military group Viettel, can provide services like remote medical consultation, remote surgery consultation, remote training, and remote tech transfers, among others. All Bluezone users are anonymous to others. Only competent health authorities know those who are infected and those who are suspected of infection.

Bluezone will alert a user if they have had close contact with people who have COVID-19, thereby minimising the spread of the virus to the community, helping people return to their normal lives. When there is a new case of infection, the user can learn whether they had close contact with this case or not, simply by accessing Bluezone.

As per a press release, over the past year, the government has emphasised the need to apply technology to effectively deal with the pandemic. The Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) has applied many informational measures to persuade agencies and units to use Bluezone in the fight against COVID-19, saying that the app, together with other medical declaration apps available in Vietnam, will form an ecosystem that helps to effectively trace the origins of infection.

According to MIC’s Authority of Information Technology Application, as of mid-February this year, there had been more than 29 million installations of Bluezone. The number has increased by 5.5 million compared with late January, the time when a COVID-19 community-transmitted resurgence occurred.

The release noted that Vietnam had not reported any COVID-19 case for around two months until the third outbreak. As a result, many Bluezone users uninstalled the app as they thought they no longer needed it. However, as the virus has reoccurred, the government has said it is necessary to download the app again. Bluezone has helped trace thousands of suspected infection cases. Experts estimate that Bluezone will offer the highest possible effect if 60% of Vietnamese adults use it. They think that it is necessary to require people to install and use Bluezone as a compulsory app at this time to prevent the spread of the virus.

In some localities, people think Bluezone is only a supporting measure to help trace suspected cases that are used with traditional measures. Agencies have complained that they are facing difficulties in tracing sources of infection as many patients remain uncooperative.

The reliance on traditional traceability measures costs money and time and also creates holes in management, increasing the risk of spreading the virus. Experts believe that instead of using Bluezone as only a supportive measure, it should be used as a major solution.

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