Aarogya Setu is of little help without well-equipped public health response: ICMR study

More than 100 million users have already downloaded the app

aarogya setu rep Representational image | Twitter handle of Aarogya Setu

Even as the Centre continues to stress on the importance of downloading Aarogya Setu app as part of the efforts to curb the increasing spread of coronavirus, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has pointed that such an app alone can't do much in the fight against the pandemic.

The government has made the app mandatory for many services so that the movement of people, especially those suspected to be infected with the disease, can be tracked and their contact details too can be availed. Recently, Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had said downloading of the app was not mandatory, but preferable for air travel.

According to The New Indian Express, a paper published in ICMR’s Indian Journal of Medical Research noted that a well-equipped health system is essential to fully tap the potential of apps like Aarogya Setu. "The governments must ensure the necessary but least intrusive measures for disease surveillance," the study in the the journal by researchers from George Institute of Global Health said.

Despite apprehensions of privacy activists who consider the app as an "unwarranted" surveillance tool, the popularity of the app seems to be growing as more than 100 million users have already downloaded the app which is also used for dissemination of information to contain the spread of virus. The app collects data on the location of the user and cross-references it with the Union government database to understand whether the user has come into contact with an infected person.

“While there is a huge emphasis on the use of these apps as self-protection tools there is little scientific evidence that these apps alone, without a robust public health response linkages are beneficial," TNIE quoted co-author of the sudy Dr Oommen John as saying.

Dr John further said overemphasis on the app without taking care to ensure a well-equipped health care system will give a false sense of security to people.

Aarogya Setu app uses Bluetooth and GPS tracking to provide information. The app also requires you to keep your Bluetooth and GPS Location sharing turned on at all times.