Technological measures against coronavirus

In addition to offering telecommuting to their professionals, large technology companies are implementing concrete actions in the fight against Covid-19. A front to which the scientific community around the world joins. In this article, we collect and explain some of the most prominent technology measures so far, and they are already working.

It’s Friday, March 13. But it is not just any Friday. The Government of Spain has just decreed a state of alarm throughout the country to stop the expansion of the coronavirus.

Already last Monday, March 9, we experienced a turning point in the fight against this global epidemic. The Spanish health authorities reported the closing of schools and the recommendation to telework and to suspend trips, among other measures.

In this context, some companies in the ICT sector have begun to announce technological measures against coronavirus that try to make the current situation more bearable, some offering free or cheaper tools, and others putting their technology at the service of the Public Administration or other groups. . The ultimate goal, to combat the coronavirus and its derived effects from all fronts. The scientific community is also a crucial part in this fight. We tell you some examples.

Free Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Office 365 A1

Microsoft Spain has been one of the first large companies to announce technological measures against the coronavirus. It has done so with concrete proposals around Microsoft Teams and Office 365 A1.

Microsoft Teams is a program that connects work teams in a virtual way, allowing chat rooms or making video calls. It is your star solution for remote collaboration and communication between employees, very useful in present circumstances. And in this sense, Microsoft has communicated that it offers this tool free of charge for six months to the Public Administration, as well as to companies that require it.

In addition, for schools and also for end users, it offers Office 365 A1 to facilitate collaboration and remote learning.

As we do not yet know the period in which classes will be suspended, Microsoft Spain indicates that this toolkit will be available, for both teachers and students, with no time limit. It will also not cost.

Microsoft Teams

IBM Joins Coronavirus Drug Research

Another example can be found at IBM. The American multinational recently reported that a team of researchers is working with Summit, the world’s largest supercomputer, to accelerate research on a possible pathogen vaccine.

As stated in a statement, this adds to the work carried out by the United States Department of Energy in the city of Oak Ridge. In the procedure to investigate a virus, it is usual to grow the microorganism and then study how it reacts when compounds or medications are applied.

The Summit supercomputer is powered by 9,216 processors and more than 27,000 graphics units. It has a peak performance of 200 petaflots, a power equivalent to a million high-end laptops. Such a device cannot be small: it occupies a space similar to two tennis courts. Why so many capacities? The supercomputer uses its analysis tools to study a large number of variables. Without going any further, its use has allowed simulating 8,000 compounds in a matter of one or two days – an amount that with traditional computers would take months to achieve, according to the company. In this way, they have been able to identify 77 compound molecules that could damage Covid-19’s ability to infect and attack host cells.

Similarly, the IBM Watson Health division has made IBM Clinical Development technology available to national health services, free of charge. With it, clinical trials and medical developments can be carried out faster. In fact, at the start of the outbreak, it was already made available to Chinese professionals.

Summit IBM

Nextstrain, an open source project to follow the evolution of the virus

Nextstrain is an initiative that seeks to keep citizens updated on the route of the Covid-19. Furthermore, it is a data network in which scientists from around the world share their research on the genomes of the virus. One of the keys to their success is that they can do it at great speed, almost in real time, making it possible to be aware of the respective work of the scientific community almost simultaneously. Citizens, too.

Thanks to these studies we know, for example, that the first two cases of contagion in Brazil were not related. A fact that tells us, in the words of Nuno Faria, a researcher at the University of Oxford, that Covid-19 enters countries not only through one route, but through several different ones.

We also know that the origin in Europe is probably in Munich, from where it has spread throughout the continent. According to the data and research, it is possible that the first patient became infected as a result of being in contact with a Chinese business partner, in January. In the same way, with the study of genetic mutations, the relationship of the first two cases in the United States has been detected.


An app for quarantined people to communicate with doctors

One of the most striking technological measures against the coronavirus so far is the one adopted by the South Korean Ministry of Health and Safety. They have created an app that allows people in quarantine at home to connect with healthcare personnel. In this way, they manage to have these people monitored and they do not collapse the health system.

According to Jung Chang-hyuan, an official from the Korean Ministry and the person in charge of supervising the development of the app, it is a much-needed tool, although it is not mandatory. He says that in Korea there are currently about 30,000 individuals in quarantine, after the drastic measures that the authorities pushed to try to stop the virus.

Among them, for example, we highlight the prohibition to leave the home to all those who have been in contact with a confirmed virus carrier. “In contact” means having been less than two meters from this infected person or having been present in the same room where they coughed. Quarantine of at least two weeks.

Each of these individuals is assigned to a local authority, which telephones twice a day to monitor their situation. With this new app -for now available only for Android, for Iphone is scheduled for March 20- these calls would be replaced. Instead, the user would contact the official in question in real time to inform them of their evolution.

In addition, the application has GPS location. This function has the objective of tracking the person in quarantine and notifying the health authorities in case of skipping it. Fact that, on the other hand, is legally prohibited in the country.

To understand why Korea has adopted such strict solutions, we go back to the case of a “superpropagator”, the so-called “Patient 31”, who infected dozens of people for her negligence in not stopping social contacts for the recommended time. The use of this app responds to the fear that such a situation will recur.

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