ISTANBUL – With many European countries struggling to track and trace those infected with COVID-19, Turkey is claiming some success with its HES computer application. The app is increasingly seen as key by Turkish authorities to battle the virus as the country faces a surge in infections.
In Turkey before traveling by coach, plane or even a long-distance car journey, you must download the HES computer app created by the Health Ministry and fill out an application. Then, it generates a unique barcode and that allows you to travel with the app, tracking your movements and who you’ve been near.
If a fellow passenger is diagnosed with COVID-19, your details will end up with a person like Dr. Nilufer Ataoglu.
Dr. Ataoglu shows the daily list of people sent by the Health Ministry who may have come into contact with a person with the virus. She’s the head of Istanbul’s Sariyer Health District and is responsible for tracking and tracing.
“We follow up on all cases the same day with our tracking and medication teams,” Ataoglu said. ” Here, you can see today’s cases, which will follow up with our tracking teams. I am going to appoint teams to these new cases. The cases appear on the map automatically. Then, we identify the address.”
Every morning, Ataoglu issues details to her tracking teams for people to be visited. It’s a short journey to the first person on the list.
The tracking team explains to a woman she may have been exposed to COVID-19. They ask if she displays any symptoms and take her temperature, telling her to self-isolate for 10 days. A COVID-19 test is done on the spot if needed, explains Dr. Buse Karakurt, who is in charge of this tracking team.
“Of course, some people get scared and worry about being infected and what will happen to them,” Karakurt said. “But we calmly explain to them the step-by-step procedure. If they have contact and show symptoms, we take a sample.”
Any samples are immediately taken back for testing. The HES app also notifies the authorities if a person has broken self-quarantine. So far, few have raised concerns that authorities could misuse the personal data of users.
With Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca warning that COVID-19 infections are again on the rise, fighting the virus appears to be the people’s primary concern. HES now informs of infection hot spots, and as Dr. Ataoglu explains, this is just the beginning.
“By getting the HES application on their mobile phones, people can see the COVID-19 risk situation in the neighborhood they are in,” Ataoglu said. “Public offices are also likely to have barcode scanners, and you will only be able to enter these buildings with a HES code.”
Turkey’s battle to control COVID-19 is now depending on technology like HES and the efforts of people like Dr. Ataoglu and her tracking teams.