A research paper authored by Vice Premier Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁), a physician, along with others on contact tracing used by Taiwan in containing COVID-19 has been published by a leading international medical journal.
The article, which looks at how Taiwanese authorities used big data to trace the movements of more than 600,000 people who came into contact with passengers of the Diamond Princess cruise ship in January, was published on Tuesday by the peer-reviewed Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR).
Twelve people coauthored the article, including Chen, Department of Cyber Security Director Jyan Hong-wei (簡宏偉) and National Taiwan University College of Public Health dean Chan Chang-chuan (詹長權).
Screengrab by Lee Hsin-fang, Taipei Times
The cruise ship docked in Keelung on Jan. 31, letting off more than 3,000 passengers who spent a day moving throughout northern Taiwan, the article said.
After a large-scale COVID-19 outbreak occurred on board the ship while it was in waters off the coast of Japan, Taiwanese authorities initiated an emergency system broadcast to inform the public about the movements of the passengers while they were in Taiwan, and to advise those who might have become infected to self-isolate at home.
“Smart contact tracing-based mobile sensor data, cross-validated by other big sensor surveillance data, were analyzed by the mobile geopositioning method and rapid analysis to identify 627,386 potential contact-persons,” the authors wrote. “Information on self-monitoring and self-quarantine was provided via SMS, and severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) tests were offered for symptomatic contacts.”
Authorities tracked the passengers’ movements by looking at GPS signals from the buses that they took, credit card records of their purchases, public surveillance cameras and positioning data from their mobile phones, among other methods, the authors wrote.
After the broadcast, 67 people were reported to have shown symptoms of infection, but all tested negative, the authors wrote, adding that big data analysis and self-quarantine among potential cases proved effective in containing the spread of the virus in Taiwan.
JMIR is an international medical journal that has an impact factor — a historical average of how often all papers published two to three years ago have been cited — of 4.945, and is No. 1 one among 22 leading medical journals, the authors said.
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