You cannot fight a fire blindfolded. And we cannot stop this pandemic if we don’t know who is infected. (World Health Organization Director-General, 16 March 2020).
The epidemiological situation is clear: the virus that causes COVID-19, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is spreadin
rapidly through the Swiss population (Salathé et. al, 2020)
and the number of patients suffering from COVID-19 is following the spread of the virus, with a predictable delay. There are likely many people with undetected SARS-CoV-2 infection because testing efforts are currently not detecting all infected people, including some with clinical disease compatible with COVID-19. The Swiss government announced important and drastic new «social-distancing» measures on Monday, 16 March 2020 to fight further propagation of this novel virus (Salathé et. al, 2020). «Social distancing» is designed to reduce interactions between people in a broader community, in which individuals may be infectious but have not yet been identified hence not yet isolated. As diseases transmitted by respiratory droplets require a certain proximity of people, social distancing of persons will reduce transmission. (Chen, Yang, Yang, & Wang, 2020; Wilder-Smith & Freedman, 2020).
Even though this restriction on mobility will, in the short-term, prevent an overload of the health system, a long-term control of the pandemic
is improbable in the case that a vaccine can’t be found. Such a vaccine is unlikely to be found in the next months (Salathé et. al, 2020).\
Additionally, these wide-reaching restrictions have direct economic repercussions as well as negative psychological consequences such as stress, depression, confusion and anger. The latter will only increase as the restrictions continue (Brooks et al., 2020). To summarize the preceding paragraphs, it seems to make little sense to keep up such long-term cross-population measures for an extended period of time. It is therefore necessary to find other means of protecting vulnerable individuals. Based on case numbers in China, where they were able to significantly reduce the number of new infections (Pueyo, 2020), early detection and isolation of infected individuals was more effective than imposing travel bans or attempts at reducing contact between people (Lai et al., 2020). The number of new infections in South Korea were drastically reduced. Using early detection, extended testing, and «contact tracing».
«Contact tracing» is the process of identifying all individuals with whom the infected person was in contact with. These individuals are all potentially infected and should self-isolate (Bundesamt für Gesundheit, 2007).
The main advantages of «contact tracing» are that it can identify potentially infected individuals before severe symptoms emerge, and if conducted sufficiently quickly can prevent onward transmission from the secondary cases. (Keeling, Hollingsworth & Read, 2020). It’s estimated that 18% of all individuals who spread COVID-19 are asymptomatic. (Mizumoto, Kagaya, Zarebski, & Chowell, 2020) «Contact tracing» has been used to great effect in previous pandemics (Keeling, Hollingsworth & Read, 2020) and multiple «contact tracing» applications have already come out in Asia to stop the spread of COVID-19. Because these apps are not anonymous, they violate their user’s privacy and pose a widespread surveillance threat. Ubique is adhering to the Swiss core values of personal responsibility and data protection in their new application “Next Step”.