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Technology to our rescue : COVID-19

The Coronavirus pandemic has caught us all unaware and has threatened the whole world. It has become a global calamity, leaving thousands dead, millions vulnerable, economies derailed, factories shunted and cities under lockdown. It is an unanticipated disaster of epic proportions that has exposed human fragility in an interconnected world.

Cases of infected people are on the rise and even in India the total number of infected people have gone up to more than 200 in the last few days. Even though the initial epicentre of the disease was China, due to the lackadaisical approach of some of the European countries, now the epicentre has shifted to Europe, especially countries like Italy, Spain and France. Iran has been struggling to contain the rapidly spreading virus too.

Indian Government has been very proactive and prompt in taking all the required steps to spread awareness amongst people about the precautions to be taken. International flights have been cancelled and partial lockdowns have been announced in several states. All these steps are absolutely necessary for a country of 1.2 billion people. If a catastrophe like that of Wuhan and Bergamo is to unfold in Indian cities, then our healthcare system will mostly collapse. It is in this light, that we urgently need to turn to technology to track infected people and all the people they came in contact with, so that they can be tested and quarantined. We need to muster resources at our disposal and deploy the latest technology to mitigate the spread to a significant extent and profile the people at risk.

Currently health officials are relying on travel history shared by the affected people. On the other hand, it has been proposed to the Government that cellular data and digital footprint can be used to assess the risks. This can be done by finding out the number of people who were in the same tower location as that of the infected person. Health officials can get in touch with those people and monitor their health status. Strict quarantine and self isolation of the people with symptoms can also be ensured with technologies like geofence.

In addition, access to public information has led to the creation of dashboards that are continuously monitoring the virus. A lot of organizations are developing dashboards using big data. Face recognition and infrared temperature detection techniques have been installed in all leading cities. Drones and robotics can be used to transport medical equipment and patient samples, preparing meals at the hospitals, spraying disinfectants and dispensing hand sanitizers. A Shenzhen based company called Multicopter is already using robots to transport medical samples.

Thus, in this way technology can come to our rescue in fighting the pandemic and ensuring that we mitigate and break the chain of the virus spread.

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