More than 720,000 people sign up for new Covid-19 tracker app

Figure represents 23% of State’s population over 16 years with smartphones

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has urged all members of the public to download the new Covid-19 contact-tracing app in order to protect themselves and others. Video: RTÉ

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More than 720,000 people have signed up for the new Covid tracker app aimed at helping to identify close contacts of people who test positive for Covid-19.

The app, launched on Tuesday by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, has so far been taken up by 15 per cent of the population and 23 per cent of all those over 16 years with smartphones, a Health Service Executive spokesman said.

While data on the download performance of apps on their debut is not publicly available, Australia’s CovidSafe app racked up two million downloads in its first 24 hours – equivalent to about 8 per cent of the population. And in Britain, the self-reporting app for those with symptoms of the virus had 750,000 downloads in its first 24 hours.

HSE chief executive Paul Reid said use of the app in Ireland could see a reduction in the time required to trace close contacts of someone who tested positive from days to hours.

He also said the app cost about €850,000 to develop with an annual running cost of €350,000-€400,000.

Concerns

Meanwhile, concerns have been raised with the State’s public-health team that a significant number of individuals who may have encountered people with Covid-19 are not engaging with the contact-tracing process.

At a meeting of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) last month, officials were told that despite multiple attempts over a period of days to phone or text the close contacts of confirmed Covid-19 cases, a proportion are not engaging with the system.

“The NPHET was advised that a proportion of the people who are identified as close contacts of confirmed cases do not complete the full contract-tracing process,” minutes of the meeting state.

The HSE said its contact management programme takes “an active approach” and makes “multiple attempts to contact the close contacts over multiple days”.

“This includes text messages, phone calls, and leaving voicemails; however, it is not always possible to make contact with these individuals.”

The HSE also said it would undertake a further analysis looking at the number of close contacts identified per case and the proportion of those who are contacted and then tested for a first and second time. The HSE also said it would examine international experience around how to improve contact tracing.