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Seoul to launch 10-minute contact tracing program

(Yonhap)
(Yonhap)

The government has started running a program from Thursday that takes just 10 minutes to trace people who may have been exposed to the novel coronavirus, in the latest technology adopted to combat the pandemic.

Co-developed by the Land Ministry, the Ministry of Science and ICT and the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus tracker allows data of confirmed COVID-19 patients to be immediately analyzed and provided to health investigators.

Previously, it took about 24 hours to pinpoint people exposed to the virus, as related ministries and bodies had to share the information by making phone calls and filing official documents to request data.

“The time for analyzing epidemiological surveys will be reduced to less than 10 minutes, alleviating the burden on epidemiologists and enabling them to cope more agilely in an event of large-scale infections,” according to Lee Ik-jin, an official at the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.

With the KCDC taking control of the new digital surveillance system, 27 public and private organizations including the National Police Agency, Credit Finance Association, three mobile carriers and 22 credit card companies have joined forces to expedite contact tracing.

Using big data, the system also enables health authorities to receive analysis on major virus clusters to identify likely sources.

The information is exclusively for the KCDC and epidemiologists at city and provincial governments. Other government agencies won’t be permitted to access or utilize the data, authorities said.

The government revised its law to grant greater access to information on patients of infectious diseases after being stung by criticism for holding back data about hospitals treating patients of the Middle East respiratory syndrome in 2015.

By Park Han-na (hnpark@heraldcorp.com)
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