Public neglects Druk Trace app

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The app was launched in April 2020 by the health ministry for contact tracing

An office goer scans the Druk Trace QR (Quick Response) code after entering a taxi. It does not work. He pays the fare in town and walks away without writing his details in the logbook; he does not try to scan again.

Despite the contact-tracing app being a vital tool in protecting against coronavirus and the health ministry’s mandatory requirement for people to scan the Druk Trace QR codes or the second option-to jot down his or her details in the driver’s logbook, people seem to be growing increasingly careless about using the app.

More than 400,000 people have downloaded the Druk Trace app, according to an official from the Ministry of Health. “But despite the pandemic not having come to an end, people are not using this app anymore.”

The Druk Trace app was launched in April 2020 by the health ministry for contact tracing in case of local transmission of COVID-19 in the country.

As of February 16, a total of 1,944,207 scans were recorded and 322,139 people have registered so far with an average of 70,000 scans per day, only 40% of the total population in the country.

“Since the daily data is huge we do not keep count every day and this also ensures data privacy for all the users. We only use it to contact trace where there is an outbreak of COVID-19.”

Since the launch of the app, more than 90,000 offices, shops, restaurants and hotels and about 20,000 transport services, including taxi, buses and government vehicles, have created the QR codes for the Druk Trace app.

According to the health official, the important thing is that if people have downloaded the app and they have it running in the background on their phone, it’s already gathering details of people you’ve been in close contact with.

Since the government agreed to consider relaxing, social distancing restrictions are not being followed strictly in places like shops, restaurants and public transports among others, said an observer.

“Some just tell us that they don’t have the app when we request them to scan the QR code. People also do not scan the QR codes after failing the first time,” said a cabbie adding that people blame poor mobile networks.

A taxi driver, Pemala, said people are reluctant to give details if they don’t have the app installed in their phone. “Teenage girls especially give wrong details and number,” he said.

He had to put up a picture of the girl’s bag on social media to reach her. “This all happened because she jotted down the wrong details in my logbook.”

Pemala said that effective contract tracing could be hampered because people have started sharing wrong details, if they don’t have the mobile app. “Most of the time, they need to be reminded to use the app.”

According to the health official, previously the authorities had said that 40% of the population would have to sign up for the app for it to be effective, but now they won’t put a cap to it.

“We need as many people as possible to download the app and follow the COVID-19 norms, as the pandemic has not yet ended,” he said adding it is very sad to know that people are not utilizing the app properly.

However, some people say that some transport services like taxis even do not carry QR code and elsewhere the QR codes are hardly visible.

Wangmo, 35, a civil servant had to advise a taxi driver to place a QR code in his taxi. “Some taxis do not display the codes properly.”

“Like taxis, some shopkeepers have pasted the codes on walls where they are hardly visible,” she said adding that the authorities concerned must monitor the situation well and be vigilant.

Kinley Yonten from Thimphu

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