TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) is promoting the adoption of its contact tracing app due to the increased transmissibility of the Omicron variant and said it will require its use in “certain places” in the future.
The app, called Taiwan Social Distancing App (臺灣社交距離), was created by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Taiwan AI Labs. It uses Bluetooth technology to detect if a user has come within 2 meters of a confirmed case of COVID-19 for more than two minutes in the last 14 days.
During a press conference on Sunday, April 10, CECC head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said that as COVID cases have increased dramatically, the center has gradually simplified its epidemiological investigations through the use of the technology and that the replacement of system real-name registration with the Taiwan Social Distancing app is an “important direction”. Chen said the use of the app will be vigorously promoted, and in the future it will be necessary to enter “some places.”
The CECC chief said government agencies will have to use the app first and business groups are “welcome”. Chen said the goal would be for at least half of Taiwan’s population to adopt the app.
He pointed out that Omicron’s high transmissibility requires a shift in strategic thinking. In the past, each confirmed person averaged six to seven contacts, but with Omicron, each confirmed case now has 16 to 17 contacts.
Chen said that as the characteristics of the virus change, it would be more effective to strengthen scientific and technological methods of epidemic prevention rather than ad hoc adjustments and notifications by health departments. He said the app is currently used by more than 6 million people and if 12 million people adopt it, potential contacts will be much more likely to be notified as soon as a user is diagnosed.
He said that in the future, people employed in designated areas who enter certain locations will need to download the app. Chen cited officials as an example of a group that will need to download it.
Chen cited a recent outbreak at Taiwanese mandopop star A-Mei’s (張惠妹) concert as an example of the limitations of the current contact tracing method and the benefits of the app. Chen said if concert-goers download it, only those who have come into close and prolonged contact with confirmed cases will be notified, rather than texting 7,300 attendees as was the case over the weekend. .
Members of the public who are notified via the app that they are a contact can immediately get tested to minimize doubts, Chen said. He explained that such people should immediately wear a medical mask and travel to a testing station in their own vehicle or on foot to avoid using public transport.
Chen said if people cannot use their own sweat mode, they can contact their local health unit or dial 1922 to request that an epidemic prevention vehicle be dispatched to transport them to a testing center. Those who haven’t downloaded the app yet can find it under “Taiwan Social Distancing” on the Android and iOS app stores.