Germany asked the public on Tuesday to download a new app for the smartphone aimed at helping break the chain of the coronavirus or COVID-19 infections, one of the several apps that the European government s expect will revive travel land tourism safely.

The COVID-Warn-App, which is now available on Apple and Android devices, uses the Bluetooth short-range radio for measuring close contact between the people and issues a warning should one of them later test positive for COVID-19.

Germany Asks People to Use COVID-Warn-App

Coronavirus
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"This app isn't a cure-all. It's not a free pass. But it's an important additional tool for containing the pandemic," Health Minister Jens Spahn told a launch event. Germany joins Italy, Poland and Latvia in launching apps based on technology from Apple and Alphabet's Google that preserves privacy by logging Bluetooth contacts securely on devices.

In news coinciding with the German launch, European Union members agreed technical standards for national apps to 'talk' to each other - a step towards making it possible to trace infections across borders. "As we approach the travel season, it is important to ensure that Europeans can use the app from their own country wherever they are travelling in the EU," Commissioner Thierry Breton said in a statement.

SECOND TIME LUCKY

The German app nearly went off the rails in April as Berlin abandoned an initial approach that would have stored data on a central server - which privacy experts said could allow people's relationships to be spied on. The government drafted in Deutsche Telekom and SAP to salvage the project quickly. Initial downloads from the Google Play Store ran into the hundreds of thousands, Deutsche Telekom CEO Tim Hoettges said.

Public enthusiasm for the app has been mixed - last week's Politbarometer opinion poll for ZDF found that 42 percent of people would download it and 46 percent would not, while eight percent didn't have a new enough smartphone. "I'm doing my part," YouTuber Mori said on his Twitter feed, posting a screenshot of the app. Some others grumbled that they needed to upgrade the operating system on their iPhones before they could download the app.

Although the proximity-tracing technology is new and untested, the 20 million euro ($23 million) cost of developing the COVID-Warn-App pales by comparison with multi-billion-euro fiscal stimulus measures and corporate bailouts.

That makes it a relatively cheap bet on supporting the existing system of testing and contact tracing that has already contained the pandemic in Europe's largest economy. Germany reported just 378 COVID-19 cases and nine fatalities on Tuesday. "It's easier to keep infections low than to beat them down from a high level," said Chancellery Minister Helge Braun. "The app makes sense from Day 1."

(With agency inputs)