From Iceland — COVID-19 Tracking App In Development

COVID-19 Tracking App In Development

Published March 25, 2020

Poppy Askham
Photo by
Jannis Mattar/EPA

Officials are developing an app that will help to track potential COVID-19 infections. The app will use GPS to locate people who may have been in close contact with confirmed coronavirus patients during the asymptomatic phase of infection, Vísir reports.

It is hoped that the app will make infection tracking and quarantining more efficient. It works by registering all phones that have been near an individual so that if said individual becomes infected, authorities will have an accurate record of everyone who came into contact with them and for how long. People who have potentially been infected will then receive a message ordering them to quarantine themselves. Singapore pioneered this technique and has had considerable success with it. Many other nations, including the U.K., are also developing similar apps.

The proposal will have to be approved by the Data Protection Authority before it can be instated. Chief of Police, Víðir Reynisson, assured reporters at yesterday’s coronavirus press conference that the data collected would only be accessible to the infection tracking team. He also stated that information would not be stored in a database once the outbreak has subsided. However, many are likely to see this measure as a violation of privacy and will be concerned about the security of their data.

Víðir was also keen to stress that the app will not replace infection tracking workers. The software is not foolproof; human judgement will still have a key part to play in quarantine decisions. One example Víðir gave was that if two people parked next to each other but remained in their cars for ten minutes, the app wouldn’t be able to tell that there had been no physical contact between them.

That said, it’s vital that the health authorities improve their infection tracking capabilities in order to contain the spread of the disease. At the time of writing, 172 COVID-19 patients, just over a quarter of all cases, do not know how they caught the virus. This suggests that the disease could be more prevalent in society than deCODE’s screenings of the general population indicate and makes it almost impossible for the infection tracking team to locate everyone that needs to be quarantined to prevent further transmission.

Tune into our daily COVID-cast for more on recent coronavirus-related developments in Iceland.

Note: Due to the effect the Coronavirus is having on tourism in Iceland, it’s become increasingly difficult for the Grapevine to survive. If you enjoy our content and want to help the Grapevine’s journalists do things like eat and pay rent, please consider joining our High Five Club.

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