Contact Tracking Not a Priority in Mexico

Contact Tracking Not a Priority in Mexico

By Andrea Villar

While countries like France, Argentina or India rely on technology to control the spread of COVID-19 through contact tracking, the Mexican government trusts that lockdown orders will work to fully prevent contagion. The Ministry of Health, in its daily conferences, has asked people to stay at home but has not given any indication of a contact tracking program.

India’s government has ordered all public and private sector employees to use a government-backed contact tracking app. Back in April, the Asian country launched the Aarogya Setu app that alerts users who may have come in contact with people who later tested positive for COVID-19. According to the country’s technology ministry, the app has been downloaded around 83 million times. In India, the smartphone user base is around 500 million. On May 11, France began the testing phase of its ‘StopCOVID’ program. Minister of Digital Affairs Cedric O presented the app as a key element of France’s strategy to prevent the virus from spreading as lockdown measures are eased.

Meanwhile, in Mexico, contact tracking is almost nonexistent and the government has made no efforts to enforce this. Moreover, despite institutions like Instituto Politécnico Nacional (IPN) through its Center for Research and Advanced Studies (CINVESTAV) having finished the development of a device to detect people infected with COVID-19 in a few minutes, the government has not announced any plans to use this in its fight against the virus. Authorized hospitals and laboratories may acquire the test once the Institute of Epidemiological Diagnosis and Reference (INDRE) validates it. This new serological test, developed by Mexican scientist José Luis García and his team, needs only a blood sample that travels through biosensors to reveal the result in a fluorescence microscope.

According to a Reuters report, 23 countries want to access Apple and Google’s contact tracking technology, which will allow governments to register users who maintain physical proximity for at least five minutes. Also, a user who later becomes infected with the virus can use the application to automatically and anonymously notify their recent contacts. These tracking programs could have a great impact on the control of COVID-19, “as both companies dominate the world’s mobile operating systems and also decide what permissions the user can grant to apps,” Javier Arreola wrote in an article for Forbes Mexico.

But these tracking apps also have limitations. In a recent study carried out by the Institute of Big Data at the University of Oxford, 80 percent of people with smartphones would be required to use the app to stop the virus in a city of a million inhabitants. This means that in Mexico, more than 60 million downloads would be required to reach a similar impact.

As the Ministry of Health registered 8,597 deaths from COVID-19 and 78,023 positive cases, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said he will resume his presidential tours next week to start the construction of the Mayan Train.

Publicada el 28 de mayo de 2020 en México Business.

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