Irish people urged to download Covid Tracker App to speed up contact tracing 1 month ago

Irish people urged to download Covid Tracker App to speed up contact tracing

The app intends to speed up Ireland's response to potential Covid-19 outbreaks.

The Covid Tracker App for the Republic of Ireland was launched today, as Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly urged the Irish public to download it to help in the ongoing fight against the virus.

The app is intended to be used as an additional measure to the traditional testing and tracing system already in place, with CEO of the HSE Paul Reid describing the app as an "important part" of this system, but not a "magic bullet" that will replace the public health advice and guidance already in place.

The app operates on Bluetooth technology, and should users choose to download it they will be informed if they have been in close contact with another app user who has tested positive for coronavirus, be able to input and track their own symptoms and receive advice on what to do and be able to anonymously warn close contacts if they test positive for Covid-19.

The information gathered will also make contact tracing quicker, help identify previously un-notified potential close contacts and help map and predict the spread of the virus.

The app development process has been led by the HSE and the Department of Health, in collaboration with the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO) and An Garda Síochána, together with technical partners from the Irish private sector and scientific partners from Science Foundation Ireland.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly says the app has been designed with "privacy at its core", and that multiple steps had been taken to ensure people's data would be protected. The source code for the Covid Tracker app, its basic computing structure, has also been published along with a Data Protection Impact Assessment. These documents can be read here.

Despite this, there has been some concern around the app and its use of data. The Irish Council for Civil Liberties have expressed worries around the app's potential accuracy, its use of location data and symptom tracking and the long-term control of Goolge/Apple over most EU countries' apps, rather than governments themselves.

Despite these misgivings, the ICCL have said in their report that their "experts commend the HSE and Department of Health’s good faith efforts towards transparency by publishing online much documentation in relation to the app’s development.

"We hope they continue to foster engagement by addressing the findings within this report card prior to the app’s release."

The app is available across the island of Ireland, and those travelling to Ireland from abroad will also be encouraged to utilise the app while in the country.

The app is not available to older models of phones, Minister Donnelly said that anything below an iPhone 6 or Android 7 will not be able to download the app due to "technological constraints".

Dr Ronan Glynn, acting Chief Medical Officer, said that the app requires uptake from a "substantial proportion of the population", and Paul Reid refused to be drawn on an exact figure required for the app to be effective. Reid said at the press conference this morning that over a quarter of a million people had downloaded the app by this morning.

According to research conducted by Science Foundation Ireland, the majority of people in Ireland are in favour of an app with 82% of respondents willing to install it.

The Covid Tracker app is available to download free of charge here.