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Coronavirus: Nordic authorities use tech in fight against Covid-19

Nordic government organisations are working with private technology firms in the region to support their efforts to contain the coronavirus

Government organisations in Nordic countries are working with private sector technology firms to help them monitor Covid-19 infections and, ultimately, limit the spread of the disease.

As the coronavirus death toll increases across Europe, the crisis has resulted in an increasing number of state and private partnerships, particularly in the area of early-stage virus identification and tracking.

Norway’s national institute of public health, the FHI (Folkehelseinstituttet), has begun preliminary work to develop a self-reporting app to track movements within the country. The project, which is subject to government approval and agreement with mobile network operators Telia and Telenor, is intended to provide the FHI’s Covid-19 command centre with data that can help improve mapping and modelling to counter the spread of the virus.

The FHI is collaborating with the Simula Research Laboratory (SRL), a state innovation and development company, to design a Covid-19 dedicated self-reporting app. The organisations are developing a series of technical solutions to improve the FHI’s virus infection modelling.  

“A Covid-19 app is being examined as one potential solution,” said Gun Peggy Knudsen, the FHI’s executive director for health data and digitalisation. “As yet, there is no decision as to whether an app for this purpose will be made or used. Information gained from the app would be protected. It would be exclusively used to fight Covid-19.”

Meanwhile, Finland’s government-funded VTT Technical Research Centre has partnered with the CSC IT Center for Science, the Finnish Meteorological Institute, Aalto University and the University of Helsinki in a project to help tackle the coronavirus.

“The model will help us understand how the virus is transmitted in the air and provide insights as to whether the virus is able to survive in the air,” said Ville Vuorinen, Aalto University’s technical adviser to the project. “We want to determine how quickly virus concentrations dilute in the air in various airflow situations that arise in places like grocery stores. Using high computing power, we expect to be able to produce the first results in a matter of weeks.”

At the same time, municipal health authorities in Finland are using the newly launched Fevermap app to build a more accurate picture of the Covid-19 spread through self-reporting. The brainchild of Tampere-based IT firm Seravo, Fevermap was first showcased at Hack the Crisis Finland, a 48-hour challenge run on 20-22 March.

The online hackathon was organised by Finland’s tech communities and funded by the Finnish government as part of its “Save Lives, Communities and Businesses” Covid-19 national initiative.

“The best expert data suggests that there are 30 to 40 times more Covid-19 infections than official test figures show,” said Otto Kekäläinen, CEO of Seravo. “Fevermap will help state authorities acquire a more realistic real-time picture of the infection rate and spread.”

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Seravo has rolled out Fevermap cost-free to health authorities worldwide. Available in 11 languages, the app has been an instant hit with Nordic healthcare providers grappling with a limited supply of testing equipment.

Also in Finland, 9Solutions has produced an updated version of its Nurse Call communications system for medical centres. With more medical centres facing an overload of patients as the virus spreads, 9Solutions Nurse Call Lite delivers a basic communications tool connecting patients and nurses.

The three-tier unit comprises a nurse call handset, a room terminal enabling voice contact between nursing staff and patient, and a mobile app that allows nurses to manage alarms and communicate with patients remotely.

“The objective must be to flatten the curve of the Covid-19 spread,” said Sami Herrala, CEO of 9Solutions. “Facilitating communication between nurses and patients, especially in situations where medical centres are treating the overflow of patients in beds lining the corridors of hospitals, is paramount. Medical tech solutions like Nurse Call Lite help to make a positive impact and a difference.”

In Sweden, health authorities are collaborating with Divio Technologies to deploy the medtech company’s CoReport open source information-sharing tool. The CoReport tool’s main function is to collect, collate and forward virus status data updates from frontline responders such as police, hospitals, virus-testing centres and emergency services to administrative command centres.

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