Northern Ireland launched on Friday the first of UK's coronavirus or COVID-19 tracing app and the first one that can also trace the users in other nations, Ireland, who have come in contact with someone infected with the disease.
The developer NearForm, that hopes the app is going to become a blueprint eventually synching up all of Europe, launched another identical app in Ireland on July 8, and cases can now be traced all over the island's open border by two separate health services.
NearForm's technical director Colm Harte said the technical approach it used in developing StopCovid NI would work with apps across the rest of the UK and that it could apply across Europe if countries agree how to share and store data. "It's definitely doable, it's technically very doable because more and more countries are switching across to the Apple and Google API's (application programming interface)," Harte told Reuters in a telephone interview.
COVID-19 Tracing App in Northern Ireland
"I think it will happen. I don't know when but countries across Europe are aware that there's more people starting to travel now, this is a problem that's going to have to be solved. Britain moved to the same Apple and Google model last month when it ditched a homegrown model initially due in May. NearForm, based in the seaside town of Tramore in southern Ireland, is building Pennsylvania's contact tracing app and is in discussions with other states and governments after the successful Irish launch, Harte said.
Almost 1.5 million people, or 37 percent of the Irish Republic's population over the age of 15, have downloaded the Irish app since July 8 and 137 users have been alerted via the app that they have been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19.
Ireland has had one of the lowest infection rates in Europe in recent weeks with an average of around 20 per day until a spike on Thursday. Northern Ireland has a similarly 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 a success. "You can get into conversations about how many it needs to break before it's considered really successful, but its goal is to break transmission chains. As soon as it's doing that, it's having an impact," he said.
(With agency inputs)