This week the HSE launched its latest technology tool to help manage the COVID-19 outbreak, the COVID Tracker App.
Despite talk of privacy concerns over one million people in Ireland have downloaded this to their phone in the first 48 hours, making it the most successful launch of this app anywhere in the world. It also means the app is well on its way to achieving the minimum threshold of effectiveness which was stated at 25% of the population and if downloads continue to grow it will become an even more effective tool in the battle against the virus.
To put some context on the uptake level, after 3 weeks in Germany they are at 14 million downloads for a population of 83 million or 17%. Ireland currently stands at 20% of the overall population or 26% of the 16+ population after 2 days.
The app uses your phone to send out Bluetooth signals which are acknowledged by other phones that have the app. These are then recorded and can be used retrospectively for 14 days if the owner of the phone tests positive. This in theory means contact tracing should become a much easier task and it also means local outbreaks should be picked up quicker, and a more educated view can be taken on the likely spread from that initial outbreak. With information available those who have had contact with a positive case could be dealt with in a more efficient manner. The hope would be that the all important “R” number would remain low as people react, isolate or get tested.
While the health of the nation is the primary task it may also play a role in Ireland’s recovery. With the economy desperately in need of consumer investment after months of lockdown, the app can help enable any further lockdowns to be managed to a more local level. This could mean large parts of the economy could remain open for safe trade, lessening the impact that any second wave may have.
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