Northern Ireland launches UK’s first COVID-19 tracking app

ByLance T. Lee

Jul 31, 2020

DUBLIN (Reuters) – Northern Ireland launched the UK’s first COVID-19 tracking app on Friday, and the first that can also track down users in another country, Ireland, who have been in contact with a person suffering from the disease.

Developer NearForm, who hopes the app will become a model for eventually synchronizing all of Europe, launched a similar app in Ireland on July 8, and cases can now be traced across the island’s open border in twos. separate health services.

NearForm CTO Colm Harte said the technical approach used to develop StopCovid NI would work with applications in the rest of the UK and could apply across Europe if countries agree to how to share and store data.

Scotland’s decentralized government announced on Friday that its tracing application is being developed using the same software as Ireland’s and is also being built by NearForm.

It should be available in the fall.

“It is certainly doable, it is technically very doable as more and more countries are switching to Apple and Google APIs (application programming interface),” Harte told Reuters in a telephone interview.

“I think it’s going to happen. I don’t know when, but the countries of Europe are aware that there are more people starting to travel now, this is a problem that is going to have to be resolved.

DOZENS OF USERS ALERT

Britain switched to the same Apple and Google model last month when it scrapped a local model originally planned in May.

NearForm, based in the seaside town of Tramore in southern Ireland, is developing the Pennsylvania contact tracing app and is in discussions with other states and governments following the successful launch in Ireland, Harte said.

Almost 1.5 million people, or 37% of the population of the Republic of Ireland over the age of 15, have downloaded the Irish app since July 8 and 137 users have been alerted through the app that they had been in close contact with a confirmed case.

Ireland has had one of the lowest infection rates in Europe in recent weeks averaging around 20 a day until a peak on Thursday. Northern Ireland has an equally low rate, with no related deaths reported since July 12.

NearForm’s Harte said that if either app can break even a handful of transmission chains, it will be successful.

“You can argue about how many he has to break before he’s considered a real success, but his goal is to break the chains of transmission. As soon as it does that, it has an impact, ”he said.

Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Gareth Jones and Andrew Cawthorne


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