Effectiveness of government contact tracing app called into question

As shopping centres around Thailand re-open for business, questions are being asked about the effectiveness of the contact-tracing procedures rolled out by the government. Most shoppers are now required to register their presence by providing their phone number each time they enter or leave a mall or store. Sometimes manually by a shop assistant physically writing down your phone number and times inside the shop. Others by using a QR code on their phones.

The theory is that customers can then be contacted and advised to get tested in the event that Covid-19 is detected at a location they have visited.

On Sunday, the first day of re-opening, huge crowds were seen at many shopping malls, including IKEA’s Bangna store in Bangkok, creating a backlog of hundreds of people waiting to register their details prior to entering. Of course this ended up being counter-intuitive to the entire process of trying to keep shoppers safe.

The registration process is now a requirement at most large shopping centres and chain stores. In shopping centres, the procedure needs to be carried out at each individual store they enter. Customers are also required to “sign out” when they leave, however it’s understood that many are not doing so.

Thai PBS World reports that although more than 2.6 million people checked in at various shops, only around 1.8 million bothered to check out again. In addition, users are not obliged to provide the correct phone number, as the system will accept any sequence of numbers.

All of the above has resulted in doubt being cast on the effectiveness of the system, with one businessman calling on the government to review the procedure. Poramate Minsiri, CEO of the Kapook news website recommended that officials should use the LINE app or the Facebook “check-in” procedure instead of recording phone numbers which may or may not be correct.

SOURCE: Khaosod English and Thai PBS World

Maya Taylor

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