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Jamaica is employing the use of geospatial technology in combatting the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Speaking at the ‘Virtual Jamaica COVID-19 Geospatial Forum’ on Thursday (May 28), Senior Medical Officer (SMO) for Health Informatics in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Dr. Michele Roofe, said that geospatial tools are being utilised for the monitoring and data management aspects of the pandemic.

She explained that the main tool being used is Go.Data, which is an open-source application recommended to member states by the World Health Organization (WHO).

“It captures… cases, contacts, as well as outcomes, deaths, recoveries, isolation, laboratory results and epidemiologic data. It is very strong on chains of transmission, which is important for the containment of COVID-19,” she noted.

She said that there is some capacity for geospatial mapping but noted, “that is more or less limited, so we intend to have Go.Data serve as a single source of truth for all data coming from various applications,” Dr. Roofe noted.

Geospatial mapping is being used to track persons, enhance contact tracing and test and identify positive cases.

Additionally, the SMO said that various maps have been developed by a Geographic Information System (GIS) analyst looking at workplace clusters and where the individuals in the cluster reside, the potential routes that they travelled and where cases and contact intersect.

In the case of the workplace cluster at Alorica call centre in Portmore, St. Catherine, Dr. Roofe said through the development of a dashboard – which is a view of geographic information that helps to monitor events or activities – the Ministry team was able to monitor the workers and to respond and provide services as needed.

She noted that through the Survey123 app and dashboard, a tool has been developed for reporting on bed occupancy.

Geospatial technology is also being used in the mapping of vulnerable groups; to track persons in home quarantine; and collect individually identifiable personal health information from staff or patients, of class-one diseases.

Senior System Analyst, Guyana Lands and Survey Commission (GLSC), Tahendra Ojha, who participated in the virtual session, said that dashboards and geo-mapping are being used in his country to track COVID-19 cases and publicise related information.

Interactive maps are also being utilised to inform the public about the status of the virus on the island, while interactive dashboards are being employed to chart the most vulnerable groups.

Geographic Information System Officer in the Ministry of Public Housing, Physical Planning, Environment and Infrastructure in St. Marteen, Johann Sidial, during his presentation, indicated that his country has been using web maps and dashboards to make informed decisions on testing capacity, hot spot community outreach, and mitigation procedures.

Dashboards are also used during press briefings, he said, as a visual medium to disseminate COVID-19 statistics to the public.

Meanwhile, Principal Director, National Spatial Data Management Branch 0NSDMB), Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Yaneke Watson, noted that geospatial technology is a key decision-making tool, which is important for the growth sectors in Jamaica.

He said that the Ministry and the Land Information Council of Jamaica (LICJ) have been pivotal in promoting the use of geospatial technology by schools, industries, and government entities.

He said that the aim is to ensure that the technology is widely used and accepted as a major tool for development.

Vice President of the National Institute of Statistics and Geography of Mexico (INEGI), Paloma Merodio Gomez, who brought greetings, noted the importance of collaboration among countries for the development, management, use and exchange of geospatial information as well as the integration of statistical data and other information.

Ms. Gomez, who brought greetings on behalf of the United Nations Initiative on Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM), Americas, said that such cooperation is critical for the creation of new knowledge and supplying the products and services to meet various needs.

“This is particularly important to face the pandemic that we are living globally,” she added.

The virtual forum, under the theme ‘Mapping COVID-19 in the Caribbean- Opportunities for the Future’, was hosted by the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, LICJ, and NSDMB in collaboration with the UN-GGIM.

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