The Western Cape is beginning to test a new digitised track-and-trace system to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Once the test launch has been completed, the system will be rolled out across the country.
Track-and-trace systems have come into effect across the world as governments try and keep ahead of the virus spread. South Africa’s version appears to be incredibly similar. The digital database will have names and details of everyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 in the country, as well as the details of all their known or suspected contacts.
This data will be submitted by patients who test at public and private facilities. In addition, electronic communications service providers may also provide information, although according to law firm Webber Wentzel, it can only be used by authorised persons to address and combat the spread of COVID-19.
Such systems have gained negative response, as people are concerned that the government will use this tracking information against them or even beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the Department of Health’s chief director of Policy Co-ordination and Integrated Planning Milani Wolmarans insisted that this is not a shift to a surveillance system but rather the digitisation of the system they are already using. She says the system does not monitor citizen’s movement.
“There was an attempt earlier to develop a system that would allow us to do that. However, the technical complexities and the privacy concerns around this and the protection of that privacy had us move towards a more active base and contract tracing service, rather than a surveillance system using the data of the mobile networking operators,”she said when briefing the Western Cape legislature’s Ad Hoc Committee.