Sunday 25 October 2020

Coronavirus tracing app to be launched nationwide on Saturday

Health minister Hugo de Jonge discusses the app with senators. Photo: Lex van Lieshout ANP

The Dutch coronavirus tracing app will be introduced across the country on Saturday, after senators voted in favour of using the alert-based system.

The CoronaMelder app will warn users if they have spent 15 minutes or more in close contact with someone who tests positive for the virus – as long as they have allowed that information to be used.

Notification could follow an encounter in a café or bar, a shop, waiting in a queue, at work or while taking part in sports, the app website says. If users are alerted, they should then isolate for a 10 day period and only register for a coronavirus test if symptoms develop.

It will not be compulsory to use the app, and people will not be pressured into downloading it, health minister Hugo de Jonge told MPs. Nor will employers be allowed to request staff download it, or to ask if they have done so, the minister said.

‘It is counterproductive in the Netherlands for the government to make things compulsory,’ De Jonge told senators ahead of the Tuesday’s vote.

The app works by exchanging random codes with other phones which, the makers say, do not contain any personal information about you, or any information about your location. It has been available for download since mid August and is already operational in five of the 25 regional health districts.

MPs still have to debate other legislation which will anchor the coronavirus measures, such as social distancing in law.

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