Germany launches coronavirus contact tracing app ⁠— Here’s how it works

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Germany on Tuesday becomes the latest European country to launch a smartphone app that seeks to break the chain of coronavirus infection by tracking encounters between people and issuing a warning should one of them test positive.

A growing number of countries in the region have opted to use Bluetooth short-range radio to measure the risk of exposure, after concluding that tracking people’s movements using location data would be intrusive.

European Union member states hope soon to agree a common approach for an international ‘roaming’ feature that could help revive travel and tourism.

Since there is no cure for COVID-19, governments have turned to technology to create a sort of digital ‘herd immunity’ against the flu-like disease.

After initial efforts misfired, Apple and Alphabet’s Google – whose iOS and Android operating systems run 99% of the world’s smartphones – developed a standard that logs contacts securely on devices.

Germany joins a growing list of European countries – led by Switzerland, Italy, Poland and Latvia – to create Bluetooth apps based on this decentralized approach.

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Germany’s Covid-Warn-App, developed by SAP and Deutsche Telekom, will be available for download on Monday night from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

Once the app is installed it will typically show a ‘green’, or safe, status.

Should the user spend more than 15 minutes within two meters of another app holder who later tests positive for COVID-19, they would receive a notification advising them to seek medical advice.

The Bluetooth exchanges logged securely on devices are encrypted and pseudonyms are used, so the identity of the other person is not known.

In another security feature, positive test results would be uploaded by the German app using a QR code from the lab.


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