‘Traze’—new contact tracing app when travelling

By end of November, all travelers will be required to use Traze, a digital contact tracing app that will automatically notify its users if they have had contact with a traveler who tested positive for COVID-19. 

Starting November 28, arriving and departing airport passengers will be required to download the app on their smart phones which is available in both Play Store and App Store. 

Travelers will need to register and activate an account, then scan the QR codes at designated areas in the airport, and fill in the needed information. 

Lawyer Danjun Lucas, chief-of-staff of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), said Traze will speed up the tedious manual contact tracing process to just less than a minute. 

Those who do not have smart phones or tablets, Lucas said, could ask their family members with one to register them with the app as it could handle multiple accounts. Otherwise, the passenger should go to the Malasakit Helpdesk at the airport for registration assistance and get a unique QR code. 

The digital contact tracing app comes in time with the reopening of domestic borders that is expected to spur economic activities and to revive tourism. 

Traze, a project of the Department of Transportation (DOTr), is now being pilot tested in four airports around the country. It will automate the government’s contact tracing requirement across all transport modes. 

Developed by the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) with IT firm Cosmotech Philippines Inc., it was first piloted at the ports. 

It had a soft launch last October 28 at four airports across the country (Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Clark International Airport, Mactan Cebu International Airport, and Davao International Airport) for pilot testing. 

The pilot run aimed to introduce the app and to serve as an information campaign to prepare for the mandatory use in all airports nationwide beginning November 28. 

According to Lucas, using Traze also reduces the risk of contracting the virus compared to the previous manual mode of contact tracing as it uses a QR code technology to log a person’s location at a given time and date. 

“The intention is to really automate everything kasi nung manual [contact tracing] pa, may risk pa rin of exposure because you’re going to share the pen and paper with other passengers,” Lucas explained. 

Once registered with Traze, users will also be notified should they have had contact with someone who tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19. 

Lucas said an in-app notification will be sent to individuals who may have had contact with the patient so they may immediately observe self-isolation procedure, and other health and sanitation precautionary measures. 

The DOTr has assured that the app is compliant with the Data Privacy Act and it allows anonymous registration and optional submission of personal information. 

“It is easy to use and does not require Bluetooth or GPS to work. It will work even with slow data or WiFi,” the Department added. 

Before heading to the airport, Lucas advised travelers to coordinate first with their airlines to ensure that their booked flights, domestic or international, have not been canceled. 

“Many jurisdictions are actually canceling flights for one reason or another not only because of COVID-19. So as not to make your trip to the airport unnecessary, we advise passengers to call the airlines first to be sure,” he said. 

He reminded passengers to always wear face mask and face shield, or they will be barred to enter the airport. 

Physical distancing will also be strictly observed inside the airport where personnel will be manning strategic locations to remind passengers from time to time to follow the distancing protocol. 

On top of these safety guidelines, travelers were also urged to check other health requirements needed at their destination as some areas are still looking for a travel pass or RT-PCR test result. 

While some may see these health protocols as inconvenient, Lucas emphasized that it is just a “small price to pay” to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

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