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250,000 people have downloaded 'powerful' Covid-19 tracker app

The new Covid contact tracing app has been downloaded by 250,000 phone users already as Health Minister Stephen Donnelly says it is a 'powerful tool' to help fight the virus

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The Government's 'Covid-Tracker' contact-tracing app launched this week. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

The Government's 'Covid-Tracker' contact-tracing app launched this week. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

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Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly hailed the app as being a 'powerful tool' to fight 'this awful disease'

Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly hailed the app as being a 'powerful tool' to fight 'this awful disease'

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The Government's 'Covid-Tracker' contact-tracing app launched this week. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

The new Covid contact tracing app has been downloaded by 250,000 phone users already.

The free Covid-19 tracker app was formally launched today and aims to allow users be contacted if they were in close contact with somebody who tests positive for the virus.

The user can also input symptoms they are worried about and indicate if they may need a test.

It needs a 60pc take-up to be effective.

Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly TD said at the launch today: “Together we have made a huge collective effort in recent months to limit the spread of COVID-19. As we ease restrictions, many important aspects of Irish life are returning and we are able to access more services and to meet more people."

"Today is a really good news day, you know, the country has gone through so much and there's been so much individual loss and suffering, and it's rare enough that we get a day where we're able to say you know what, we're bringing in new powerful tool to bear that every single one of us can pick up and use to fight this awful disease," Mr Donnelly told RTÉ's Morning Ireland.

He added that the app is not going to eradicate Covid-19 but is an "extra tool" in the fight against it.

"Every single one of us who downloads this helps in the national fight, it helps make ourselves safer. It helps make everyone around a safer for those we know and those we don't know," he said.

Close

The Government's 'Covid-Tracker' contact-tracing app launched this week. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

The Government's 'Covid-Tracker' contact-tracing app launched this week. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

PA

The Government's 'Covid-Tracker' contact-tracing app launched this week. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn said: “Today we are asking the people of Ireland to download the COVID Tracker App. Until we have a vaccine, or an effective treatment, testing and contact tracing are vital to our ongoing collective efforts to minimise the spread of COVID-19.

“The app is integral to contact tracing, working in tandem with the key public health measures of social distancing, hand washing, covering our coughs and wearing face coverings, helping us to stay safe and to protect each other.”

Paul Reid, Chief Executive Officer, HSE added:“The app will enhance the existing contact tracing operations. For those using the app, it can mean a reduction in the time it takes to trace close contacts from days to hours and, importantly, it can also help to identify close contacts who are not known to each other.

“Every additional contact that the app can trace will improve our existing contact tracing operations. By downloading the app, you are helping us to reach more people in a shorter time period and to provide the right advice and access to testing. This will increase our capacity to suppress the virus.”

The COVID Tracker App is now available to download from the App Store and Google Play and has three specific functions:

*Digital contact tracing of close contacts of confirmed cases of COVID-19.

*Allows users to record if they have symptoms.

*Provide daily information about COVID-19 from a trusted source.

Mr Donnelly said the app is not being used app to store private information or to give additional personal data of users to the Government.

"There's no database that you've even downloaded the app. The only way the app gets activated, in terms of letting other close contacts know, is when you've had a phone call saying you have tested positive, they will ask you if you have the app.

"If you have the app, they will ask you if they have your permission to essentially ping the other phones. You can say no," he added.

However, there are limitations to the app as it will can only operate on more modern smartphone devices.

"It is the case that for iPhone 6 and up and the Android 7's and up, they're the phones it works on, and you have to have the latest operating system so the providers have done software updates to make sure that this app will work.

"It is simply a limitation of the technology in terms of being able to identify distance that at the earlier phones don't work, and that unfortunately is a technological constraint where we're working to add with the majority of people who have smartphones in the country do have phones that this will," the Minister said.

Dr Sarah Doyle, Specialist in Public Health Medicine, HSE HPSC commented:“The HSE testing and contact tracing operation continues to be critical to Ireland’s response to COVID-19. As society reopens, the COVID Tracker App represents a simple way that we can all work together to continue to suppress COVID-19.

“The app will support our capacity to trace close contacts quickly, which is essential in containing the spread of this virus.”

The app development process has been led by the HSE and the Department of Health, in collaboration with the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO) and An Garda Síochána, together with technical partners from the Irish private sector and scientific partners from Science Foundation Ireland.

Research conducted by Science Foundation Ireland shows that the majority of people in Ireland are in favour of an app with 82pc of respondents willing to install it.

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