What Technology Is Needed to Deal With the Delta Variant?

Blockchain, News, Opinion | August 19, 2021 By:

Just as it seemed like COVID-19 was waning, the aggressive Delta variant escalated the pandemic. This new strain of the virus is nearly twice as contagious and threatens to raise case numbers back to pre-vaccine levels. As infections and concerns alike rise, technology may provide a way forward.

Technology proved indispensable amid the initial outbreak, helping the world operate while in social isolation. With the Delta variant growing at a troubling rate, governments and private organizations alike must again turn to technology for help.

Digital Vaccine Verification

As of July 22, 97% of COVID-19 patients were unvaccinated, so increasing inoculations is perhaps the most important step in fighting the Delta variant. Requiring people to get their shots in some workplaces or to do certain activities can encourage vaccination, but this requires a better way to verify them. A digital tracking system could be the answer.

The CDC’s vaccine cards are easy to forge, and there’s already an active market for fake versions. A system that ties someone’s vaccine record to a unique digital identifier would prevent fakes. Ensuring quick verification and that this medical data stays secure is the key challenge here, but blockchains may be the answer.

A blockchain-based system would make verification easy since every vaccine record would be in a transparent block in the chain. This system would also improve security, as hackers would have to perform a 51% attack to disrupt the blockchain.

Secure Remote Work Technologies

Amid the initial outbreak, many businesses embraced remote work to encourage social distancing. Returning to a work-from-home model would keep infection rates under control as vaccinations slowly increase. While many industries discovered much of their work lends itself to working remotely earlier in the pandemic, security is still a concern.

Frequent instances of “Zoombombing” and other telecommuting-related cybercrime may hamper companies’ enthusiasm about returning to remote work. Services like teleconferencing software must become more secure to enable an effective remote workforce. Thankfully, these technologies already exist.

Teleconferencing software that features end-to-end encryption by default will help prevent issues people previously had with Zoom. Making multifactor authentication mandatory to access company data remotely will likewise mitigate concerns over data breaches from remote work.

Rapid Testing Systems

Rapid COVID testing is another innovation the world will need to overcome the Delta variant. Medical authorities need reliable testing systems to keep track of infection rates. These should also be fast to minimize disruption to businesses and be able to distinguish between variants to provide more visibility into outbreak trends.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has invested hundreds of millions of dollars into developing such testing technologies. This program, dubbed the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) initiative, has already produced promising results. One recent innovation can generate test outcomes in 15 minutes and doesn’t require any cold storage.

Faster, easier testing will improve visibility into how the virus is spreading. At-home options let people provide this helpful information without close contact with someone else. They will also allow businesses to test employees with minimal disruption, enabling safer workplaces. 

Real-Time Asset Tracking

Amid rising Delta variant cases, many hospitals have struggled to provide sufficient equipment. State and national health systems may be able to transfer equipment like ventilators and ICU beds, but this requires efficient, transparent asset tracking. Blockchain technology could provide such a service.

Earlier this year, two English hospitals implemented blockchain tracking systems to improve cold chain visibility. A similar service could apply to other health care resources to balance equipment needs between areas. Officials could see where the most demand and available equipment is to lend it from one location to another.

The security and transparency of the blockchain are ideal for these tracking solutions, which must offer real-time insight to be effective. Hospitals could expand their use in vaccines, too, aiding more effective vaccination efforts. With this level of visibility, it would be far easier to balance resources to fight COVID where it’s most concerning.

Technological Innovation Can Help Fight the Delta Variant

The Delta variant is troubling, but overcoming it is not impossible. These services may prove to be essential in the fight against COVID-19, and the underlying technology already exists.

These technologies are just a sampling of the resources that could help get the Delta variant under control. As technological adoption expands, new potential use cases will emerge. Innovation got the world through the initial COVID-19 outbreak, and it can do the same again.