Irish Covid-19 tracing app tested for link-up with EU systems
Move aims to join app with those of Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Latvia
Covid Tracing app. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA
Ireland’s Covid-19 tracing app is being tested for interoperability with the systems of five other European Union member states, in the development of a system that would track the virus across borders.
The development would link up the apps of the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy and Latvia and allow them to “talk” to each other to better confront the pandemic, and began testing on Monday.
“Many member states have implemented national contact tracing and warning applications. It is now time to make them interact with each other,” the European Commission’s Thierry Breton said in a statement.
“Travel and personal exchange are the core of the European project and the single market. The gateway will facilitate this in these times of pandemic and will save lives.”
The system would make it possible for international travellers to log encounters during their journey, and receive notifications if someone they have been in contact with while abroad has tested positive.
The European Commission has said that linked-up contact tracing apps are a vital tool to crack down on the virus while allowing international travel to restart again.
The system that would link up the national apps was built in a partnership between German technology giant SAP and Deutsche Telekom, and if successful would be available to users as a “roaming” add-on to mobile phone apps.
Ireland’s contact-tracing app is one of the most successfully adopted in the world, with more than 1.72 million downloads. Germany also has one of the world’s most popular contact-tracing apps, as it has been downloaded some 18 million times in a country with a population of 83 million.
European Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said a high level of adoption was crucial to the effectiveness of the apps.
“Coronavirus tracing and warning apps working across borders can be powerful tools in our efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19,” Ms Kyriakides said.
“With cases on the rise again, apps can complement other measures like increased testing and manual contact tracing. If used widely enough, they can help us break the chains of transmission.”
Meanwhile in Northern Ireland, where the contact-tracing app is compatible with the version in the Republic, the health minister has said an under-18s version could be launched before the end of the month.
It will include age-appropriate information and encouragement throughout all stages to speak to a parent or guardian. Children will be able to use the app in a way that ensures anonymity.
It will help schools, further education colleges and universities provide additional protection to their students and staff as the academic year begins.
Health minister Robin Swann said: “The app, along with our other public health services, is a critical part of our response to control the recent rise in cases.
“The app is helping to alert people to the risks. We need people in Northern Ireland to listen to the advice and take action.”