KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 28 – Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin today encouraged widespread use of a new function on the MySejahtera app, called MySJ Trace, that uses Bluetooth to identify close or casual contacts of Covid-19 cases.
The Ministry of Health’s (MOH) current method is to identify close contacts by looking at who checked in to a certain premise via scans on the premise’s QR code at the same time as a positive Covid-19 case.
However, this may not help pinpoint people who were in close proximity to the Covid-19 case, especially in large facilities like shopping centres where a large number of people may have checked in at the same time as the Covid-19 case but were not actually near the person.
Khairy said MySJ Trace – which will be rolled out as a MySejahtera app update in Google Play for Android users, Apple’s App Store for iPhone users, and Huawei – will be used to identify people whose Bluetooth signal was picked up within 1 metre and 15 minutes of someone who later tested positive for Covid-19.
This can only happen if the positive Covid-19 case consents to share their anonymised MySJ Trace data with MOH. Then, MOH will inform the person’s casual contacts picked up via Bluetooth on MySJ Trace.
“So there’s no issue of a pingdemic like in the NHS in the UK, where you suddenly get HSOs (home surveillance orders) and you have to stay home as a close contact,” Khairy told a press conference today.
Back in July, the United Kingdom suffered a so-called pingdemic as the NHS’ Covid app sent pings to hundreds of thousands of people to self-isolate for 10 days because they were deemed close contacts by the contact tracing app. The pingdemic caused massive disruptions to various sectors due to labour shortages.
Khairy stressed that this would not happen with MySJ Trace, as people picked up by the app as casual contacts will only be required to self-test once for Covid-19 without needing to quarantine.
He also said information of interactions captured on MySJ Trace will be stored and processed only by MOH officers. When a MySJ Trace user is identified as Covid-positive, the user will upload their interactions gathered over the past 14 days from their MySJ Trace to a secured database managed by MOH.
When CodeBlue asked how MySJ Trace would avoid inaccurately designating as a casual contact a person sitting in another car from a positive Covid-19 case in traffic, Khairy said: “We have optimised it so it will only pick up within a certain range, it definitely won’t pick up if you’re in a car next door.”
MySJ Trace uses Bluetooth low energy. The government also does not keep users’ personal information from the app, as Khairy pointed out that Apple would not otherwise approve the MySejahtera update.
The health minister added that he had a meeting with representatives from Persatuan Rantaian Peruncit Malaysia (MRCA); Business Events Council Malaysia (BECM); Malaysian Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (MACEOS); Persatuan Pengurusan Kompleks (PPK) Malaysia; Prasarana Bhd; and Persatuan Pengusaha Restoran Muslim Malaysia (Presma), where he encouraged them to encourage patrons to use MySJ Trace while in their premises.
“As we move to live with Covid, there’s no more compulsion. We must encourage each other to do this to use the technology and tools we have to ensure we can break the chain of transmission of Covid.
“This will help us in tracking close contacts, to ensure we live with Covid in a safe and responsible manner, with the data, technology and the tools that we have to ensure we don’t have to do very blunt measures like locking down and things like that. But we need people to use this technology.”