As the coronavirus pandemic continues to escalate, forcing countries around the world to enter a state of lockdown in an attempt to flatten the curve, the CEOs of tech companies and world’s most creative minds have been looking at ways to alleviate the burden that now currently falls on those fighting in the front-lines.
Hospitals and health officials have been overwhelmed by the staggering number of cases. And as they work tirelessly to treat those who are seriously affected by COVID-19, testing has become increasingly important. But with COVID-19 sharing a number of traits with the common cold, a lot of the issue lies with our own self-diagnosis.
Despite already donating 2 million industrial masks to help address the needs of health care workers hit hard by COVID-19, Apple have gone a step further and launched a screening app and website. They’ve even given Siri an upgrade too, so now when you’re panicking about that cough of yours at home, you can turn to Siri for some guidance relating to testing and the symptoms of coronavirus.
What is it?
According to reports from The Verge, the new website and app will offer an “online screening tool, information about the disease, and some guides on when to seek testing or emergency care.”
With hospitals and health officials facing the increasing burden of COVID-19, many of which are already running out of masks and hospital beds, this intuitive thinking from Apple provides a level of resourcefulness that is greatly needed. But while it is a great tool for those who may be unsure of the symptoms of COVID-19 or finding it difficult to distinguish between their chesty cough and the virus, Apple have been quick to note that the screening tool “does not replace instructions from healthcare provides or guidance from state and local health authorities.”
How does it work?
When using the online screening tool, users will be asked questions about their symptoms, recent travel, and contact with other people who may have had or been exposed to the virus. It only takes a few minutes to complete, upon which users will then be taken to a page with recommended next steps. One of these steps may include the need to be tested for COVID-19, based on previous answers.
Are they any issues with the screening test?
For those whom the app suggests may need to take a COVID-19 test, the pitfall then lies on where to get tested. Apple does not provide direct advice on where tests can be done, merely suggesting that you should “talk to someone about testing.” It’s not a major flaw, particularly given that around the world – and even just in Australia – testing occurs in different places and for some, it’s hard to regulate.
If you think the app sounds great but are worried about your privacy, don’t be. Apple has said it doesn’t collect or share data from the screening tool, nor does it require logging in with your Apple ID or any other account. Essentially, the company may collect some information to help improve the site’s efficiency, but none of this information will be attributable to individuals or allow Apple to personally identify you.
As well as the website and app, Siri is also able to respond to questions you might have about coronavirus. Yep, in these times of distress you can now ask Siri “How do I know if I have coronavirus” and Siri will then ask you a set of screening questions in order to point you towards some helpful information.
For more details on the app, visit the website here.