Can cellphone tracking slow the spread of MERS in South Korea?
The Middle East...
Move over Ebola, there is a new disease that the world needs to be aware of and it is spreading rapidly throughout Seoul, South Korea.
The Middle East Respiratory System (MERS) is instilling fear into the lives of residents, with more than 2,300 people quarantined as the country grapples with the outbreak, CNN reported. More than 1,800 schools will also be closed for several days amid concerns of the spread.
According to official numbers, 87 people have contracted the virus and six people have died.
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The outbreak was first reported on May 20 and has since spread rapidly. While there has been no sustained human-to-human transmission, the worst-case scenario is the virus changing, such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) did in 2002-2003 which ended up killing about 800 people around the world.
What is MERS?
First identified in 2012, MERS is caused by a coronavirus from the same family as the one that triggered SARS. But according to the World Health Organization (WHO), MERS has a much higher death rate—38 percent.
As the disease is still fairly new, doctors and scientists do not know the exact source or mode of its transmission, making the disease much more dangerous.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MERS spreads from close contact with an ill person, such as living or caring for them.
Cellphone tracking methods
Reuters recently reported that South Korean authorities will track the cellphones of the 2,300 people under quarantine to prevent the spread of MERS.
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The South Korean government, which is under criticism for a lack of transparency and failing to respond swiftly to the outbreak, said on Sunday that it would track people who may have come into contact with patients via their mobile phones.
Additional relief efforts
Experts from the World Health Organization who have dealt with MERS are coming to South Korea to assess the pattern of the virus spread and to look at public health response efforts.
The outbreak in South Korea has been the largest in Saudi Arabia but South Korea is far from alone in the battle.
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As of Wednesday, 1,179 cases of MERS have been confirmed in 25 countries, WHO said. Two of those cases were in the United States—both were health workers who lived in Saudi Arabia.
Microsoft launches Tech for Social Impact for elderly care
Microsoft Tech for Social Impact, the tech giant's division offering tools for non profit organisations, has announced it is expanding to include aged care non profits around the world.
This means that non profit organisations helping elderly residents in nursing homes or with other daily support will now be eligible for technology grants and discounts of up to 75%, as well as training and capacity building to help with digital transformation.
The care home sector has been one of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, caring for some of the most vulnerable people in society. As a result organisations around the world have been deploying innovative technologies, such as IoT to create monitoring solutions that enable independent living, through to AI-driven robots that provide companionship as well as alert the user's care team if there are any changes to their symptoms.
The German Red Cross (DRK) is an early adopter that is already benefitting from this programme expansion as part of Microsoft Tech for Social's pilot scheme. DRK provides services and assistance to over 40,000 people at more than 500 aged care facilities in Germany, with a further 90,000 receiving care in their own homes.
Thanks to Microsoft 365 cloud technologies such as SharePoint and OneDrive, along with Teams for communication, DRK was able to continue its daily work even at the height of the pandemic crisis. Residents of DRK facilities used Teams to keep in touch with relatives despite restrictions to visits, and there are plans to continue using these channels in the future to prevent isolation among residents.
Following the pilot’s success, the programme will offer discounts and grants to eligible organisations for its Microsoft cloud stack including Business Applications, Azure and Modern Work, leveraging the firm's sector-specific tools with Microsoft Cloud for Nonprofit which will be generally available in the second half of 2021.
Microsoft estimate that around 75,000 new non profit organisations around the world will be eligible for the programme.