Jordan's new virus app alerts users about COVID-19

(31 May 2020) LEAD IN:
Jordan released a new mobile application to track COVID-19 cases and notify residents about possible contact with virus carries.

The Jordanian Health Ministry has released a mobile application that notifies users if they have been in contact with a coronavirus infected person.
Aman, or safety in Arabic, is a digital tracing app that can slow or even stop the spread of coronavirus pandemic, developers say.
The app was designed and developed by the COVID-19 JOTECH COMMUNITY, a group of 25 tech-savvy volunteers who aim to leverage Jordan’s tech talent in combating the infectious disease.
They are providing the Jordanian government with the necessary support, conducting research and offering consultancy about the use of this technology, and also support them with volunteers to use technological initiatives.
“This app stops the chain of infection when we receive an alert, and it asks us to quarantine ourselves,” says Bashir Salaytah, the manager of Aman app product.
Tech experts say that 55% of Jordan’s population must download Aman app for it to be effective in controlling the spread of coronavirus.
“If we have a large number of users who download it and follow the instructions, the research says that we will be able to stop the spread of the pandemic,” Salaytah adds.
More than 120,000 in Jordan have downloaded the app so far, according to the health ministry.
The app operates by saving the user’s location data, exclusively on the user’s phone, to examine and compare the movements of users in parallel to those carrying the coronavirus, identified by the health ministry.
Should a locational overlap occurs between uninfected users and others who later identified as infected with the coronavirus, the app alerts its users about a possible exposure to the disease and provides instructions about home-quarantine as well as contacting the health ministry.
If a user is diagnosed with coronavirus, retracing their movements in the 14-day prior to their diagnosis would be attainable and easily accessible through Aman app, which provides information such as dates, times, and places.
“It is important that I have this application due to the nature of my work that requires coming into contact with a lot of people,” says Amman resident Eyad Ammari.
The app’s developers say users’ privacy is protected.
“We chose the decentralised data model, this has enabled us not to request data from users that can identify them, their names or their mobile numbers,” says Omar Hattab, mobile solution architect of Aman app.
Jordanian authorities have reopened all commercial activities, private and public sectors in the Kingdom.
The country’s health ministry expects more cases of infections due to recent easing of curfew restrictions.
But using the app will help authorities control the spread of the virus as life gradually returns to normality, the health ministry says.
Jordan has reported 734 COVID-19 cases and nine deaths.
However, the number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest that people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks.
But it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death for some people, especially older adults and people with existing health problems.

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