Tech Giants Collaborate to Fight COVID-19 Through Contact Tracing Technology

  • June 16, 2020
  • By Jennifer McKenzie and Amanda Branch

On April 10, 2020, Google and Apple announced that they would partner to develop Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the COVID-19 through contact tracing.

Contact tracing is the tracing of individuals who may have been in contact with COVID-19 positive individuals. In theory, those who have been in contact with infected individuals are contacted by tracers and assessed whether they are at low or high risk and if the latter, told to isolate for 14 days.  

Public health officials believe that contact tracing is critical to combatting the pandemic. In the last few days, South Korea has brought the spread of COVID-19 virus to single digits, in part, through aggressive contact tracing by technological means. Other Asian countries have also been successful through their contract tracing.

Why is contact tracing critical?  It has to do with the transmission of respiratory infections, which is through close proximately to infected individuals. According to current evidence published by the WHO, the COVID-19 virus is primarily transmitted by respiratory droplets. This occurs when a person is in close or direct contact (within 1 m) with someone who has respiratory symptoms, such as coughing or sneezing, and exposes the uninfected person to the potentially infective droplets through his/her mouth, nose or eyes. However, transmission may also occur through indirect contact such as touching the surfaces in the immediate environment of an infected person or through objects used to treat an infected person (e.g., stethoscope or thermometer).