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Philippine Red Cross launches app for rapid COVID-19 response


The Philippine Red Cross has launched a mobile application that could help Filipinos assess their risk of contracting the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The app, called RC143, is a navigational tool that "uses wireless, geo-location and sensory capabilities of phones to trace contact events between users," the organization said.

This means that by using the app, users can learn if there's a chance they have been infected through contact tracing.

It also allows users to contact the Red Cross directly, "which will result in a more efficient, effective and personal response to questions and concerns."

GMA News Online spoke with Dennis Mendiola, the Senior Consultant of the Red Cross who led the development of the app, to answer a few of your questions.

How does it work?

According to the Red Cross, the RC143 app "periodically gathers data, primarily using phones’ wireless capabilities, layered with location data and other sensory capabilities of the modern smartphone."

This allows the Red Cross to notify users if they had contact (direct or indirect) with a COVID-19 positive patient, and even persons who are at risk of testing positive or are asymptomatic.

“Given these data we can recreate the movements of mobile users, track who they have been in proximity with in the past days, where, and how long the contact took place,” Mendiola explains.

The app also has a feature that helps users navigate away from high risk areas, guided by constant monitoring by Red Cross personnel and AI.

What happens if I'm high risk?

Once the Red Cross is alerted that you are at risk of having contracted the disease, it notifies you immediately.

“Kunyari you have been in contact, and then the contact has been determined by our system — it’s powered by artificial intelligence — if that person is really at risk… then the Red Cross will be alerted. The user will be called, he will be sent a notification from the app, or he can be called, (asking the user to) please talk to us now if you are feeling any of this,” Mendiola explained.

“And in a situation wherein (baka) mawalan ng internet ‘yan, he or she will receive a text saying please call us now at the Red Cross. Importante ‘yun," he added.

You can also easily contact the organization via the app if you feel symptoms or if you feel you were exposed to the virus.

How do I use it?

Anybody who has an active Philippine mobile number can use RC143.

The app is currently available on the Google Playstore, and Mendiola says the Red Cross is expected to make it available on iOS very soon.

Why download the app?

"It is important to download the app principally because you want to protect yourself and your loved ones. Because by being aware, you can avoid the disease, and avoid infecting others," Mendiola said.

It will also help Filipinos ease to a "new normal," by providing the national and local government, and the community, important scenarios to plan mitigation and response.

And, with massive adoption, developers can expect the app to provide more and more accurate data indicative of the health of users going in and out of lockdown zones.

He assured that the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is actively supporting this initiative and supporting its deployment through its communication and computing resources.

He added that the DICT is also providing valuable advice on how to accomplish these tasks while safeguarding the privacy of users.

—JCB, GMA News