With it paying to be cautious in light of the ongoing pandemic, a new app aims to reassure the public about safe places they can visit. Named after the Turkish acronym for “Life Fits Into Home,” the HES app developed by the Health Ministry aims to help the public adapt to a new “controlled social life” in which restrictions are relaxed provided the public follows strict measures to quell the COVID-19 outbreak. The “Safe Space” feature that was recently added to the app offers minute-by-minute updates on places safe to visit, from restaurants and shopping malls to taxis.
Since last week, Turkey has been running a trial on the feature in the central province of Kırıkkale, certifying places with “safe space” status upon multiple inspections. Safe space status means the venue is properly disinfected and free of risk with people there complying with requirements such as wearing masks and adhering to social distancing.
The Safe Space feature enables users to scan QR codes in venues and learn if the venue has hosted someone who has been exposed to the coronavirus. HES helps citizens stay informed about risky locations or neighborhoods, towns, streets and other public areas with high or low clusters of cases. It also gives a clearance code to users for intercity travel, based on the risk level of the user. A contact tracing feature also allows people to know how close they are to people at high risk of infection. Businesses and vehicles such as taxis and mass transit business, even apartment buildings, can print a QR code through the app’s latest feature. Once placed in those venues, QR codes can be scanned by users to see how many people visit the place and how many carry a risk of being infected with the coronavirus.
Users can notify the app when they exit a place and if they don’t, the app marks them “gone” after a certain period of time. The data collected by the app also helps the Health Ministry’s teams of contact tracers locate the last known contacts of a positive patient. Contact tracing currently largely relies on accounts from patients, yet the new app feature helps authorities track patients who were supposed to remain in self-isolation but violated the rules.