The COVID-19 pandemic has been the greatest global challenge in recent history, posing enormous health and socio-economic consequences on Governments across the world. In an effort to assist the public authorities in Cyprus to control the spread of the virus and overcome the challenges that arose due to the pandemic, the KIOS Research and Innovation Center of Excellence (CoE) at the University of Cyprus volunteered to utilize their technological know-how and scientific expertise to develop innovative digital solutions for the benefit of the Cypriot healthcare system and the Cyprus society.
The KIOS CoE research team, in collaboration with the Cyprus Ministry of Health and the Deputy Ministry of Research, Innovation and Digital Policy, developed the platforms COVERP, SNOW, and ERLY for reporting incidents, tracing positive cases and digitizing the testing processes, respectively. Moreover, the Center contributed to the development of the contact tracing app CovTracer-EN and the Cyprus Digital COVID Certificate. With the use of these tools, the Center is continuously supporting all local stakeholders in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic challenges and successfully contributing to the digital transformation of Cyprus.
Supporting the Healthcare System
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Healthcare Authorities of Cyprus, consisting of health professionals at the Ministry of Health, personal doctors, clinical labs and the Ministry of Health 1420 hotline faced the challenge of collecting and managing an enormous amount of data related to the COVID-19 outbreak.
To address this issue, the KIOS CoE research team initially developed a comprehensive system, namely COVERP, for electronic recording, analyzing, and managing all suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases. This platform contributed significantly in reducing the time for tracking suspected or confirmed cases of coronavirus in Cyprus and assisting the Government in making vital decisions. This system also provides dashboards with real time data, statistics, and analysis on the spread of the virus that are available to the Ministry of Health and to the public.
Subsequently, the KIOS CoE team developed the SNOW platform to assist the Epidemiological team with the electronic submission of data related to symptoms, medical conditions, and connections of positive cases as well as links to older cases. This system is designed to automatically inform all public and private sector entities which are affected, so that they can proceed with the appropriate health and safety policies and measures. In addition, the platform is being used by all public hospitals in Cyprus for the monitoring and updating of patients’ conditions, and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport and Youth for receiving epidemiological information regarding schools that have been impacted by the presence of positive in order to take appropriate actions.
The most recent KIOS CoE development in the fight against COVID-19 is the ERLY platform, which enables the Ministry of Health to keep a digital record of all COVID-19 diagnostic tests performed in Cyprus and to take immediate actions, such as informing all relevant parties about a positive case immediately after it has been diagnosed. This platform is being used by private companies and laboratories that have been assigned by the Ministry to perform antigen diagnostic tests (Rapid Diagnostic Tests – RDTs) on a daily basis.
According to the Acting Deputy Director of Medical and Public Health Services, Chief Health Officer Dr. Olga Kalakouta, “Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic the KIOS Center of Excellence supported the frontlines of the Cyprus Health Authorities by implementing electronic emergency information management systems to support disease surveillance and control. The developed platforms COVERP, SNOW and ERLY enabled the Unit for Surveillance and Control of Communicable Diseases to carry out its work effectively and as a result enabled better emergency management”.
Supporting the economy and the society of Cyprus
The consequences of COVID-19 did not only affect the health professionals. The consecutive and prolonged lockdowns have had a profound impact on the local economy, society and the way of living. In order to keep the spread of the virus under control, protect people’s health, and boost the socioeconomic recovery in Cyprus, the KIOS CoE contributed to the development of the contact tracing app CovTracer-Exposure Notification (CovTracer-EN) and the Cyprus Digital COVID Certificate.
CovTracer-EN is the voluntary contact tracing application of the Cyprus Government and part of a wider European effort in breaking the chain of coronavirus infections and in turn saving lives. All Cypriot citizens over 18 years old were encouraged to download and use the app so as to protect themselves, their families and the community at large. The app was developed in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, the National eHealth Authority and the CYENS Center of Excellence under the supervision of the Deputy Ministry of Research, Innovation and Digital Policy.
Finally, the Digital COVID Certificate for Cyprus is currently being developed within the context of the European Union Digital COVID Certificate project, which aims to facilitate the safe movement of citizens within the EU during the COVID-19 pandemic. The KIOS team, following the guidelines from the Office of the Commissioner for Personal Data Protection, is providing the necessary data for the real-time generation of the Digital COVID Certificate for the Cypriot citizens. This certificate is being developed in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, the Deputy Ministry of Research Innovation and Digital Policy, CYTA, KPMG, NCR, UCY eHealth Lab and 3AHealth.
The COVID-19 pandemic further highlighted the importance of technology as a tool for developing digital solutions that have proved invaluable for managing and containing the spread of the virus, thus protecting the health and wellbeing of Cypriot citizens. Furthermore, it revealed the need for collaboration between governmental organizations, academic and research institutions, and companies in tackling global challenges.
The KIOS CoE is committed to continuing this collaborative work at the local and international level and assisting in the fight against COVID-19. For this reason, the Cyprus Ministry of Health in collaboration with the KIOS CoE have secured funding, through the Resilient and Recovery Fund, to develop the “Cyprus Innovative Public Health ICT System (CIPHIS)” and enable the Republic of Cyprus to be better prepared for handling pandemics in the future.