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The HSE Is Urging Irish People To Download The COVID-19 Tracker App – Here's What You Need To Know

Yesterday, for the second day in a row, no further deaths were reported in Ireland from COVID-19.

The Department of Health and the HSE have launched a COVID-19 tracker app, aimed to identify close contacts of people who test positive for the disease.

Announced on Tuesday morning by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, CEO of the HSE Paul Reid, Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn and Specialist in Public Health Medicine Dr Sarah Doyle, the app will enhance existing contact tracing measures, by enabling users to identify close contacts and to alert those who are using the app of the need for COVID-19 testing as quickly as possible.

Expected to facilitate contact tracing, symptom tracking and contain other information about the virus, Minister Donnelly described the app as a "very powerful tool", urging as many people as possible to download it onto their phones.

“Together we have made a huge collective effort in recent months to limit the spread of COVID-19," he said.

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"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. The introduction of the COVID Tracker App will allow us to speed up reporting and tracing from the first onset of the symptoms of COVID-19, making app’s role in testing and contact tracing vital to the continued momentum of the reopening of Irish society and business.

The new app will not tell you whether you have tested positive for coronavirus, but if you do receive a positive test result, you can give the app permission to notify those with whom you have been in close contact, so they can then avail of testing, too.

Similar technology is currently being used in other countries to combat the virus, with Donnelly mentioning "there is no question that it works."

He said the majority of people who have smartphones will be able to use it, but it there is a limitation in the technology and it only works on the iPhone6 and Android 7 and upwards models.

In terms of privacy, the HSE has assured that the COVID Tracker app has been developed with privacy by design at its core, employing a decentralised model. This means that it will record if a user is in close contact with another user by exchanging anonymous codes.

If a person tests positive for COVID-19, they can choose to anonymously alert other app users who they have been in close contact with. Close contact data is stored on the users’ phone and not a government server.

For further transparency, the HSE and Department of Health published the Data Privacy Impact Assessment and source code which is open to the public. 

Minister Donnelly described the privacy issues as "really quite impressive".

Yesterday, the Department of Health said there were no further deaths of people who had previously been diagnosed with COVID-19. The overall death toll is 1,741. 

For more information about the app and to view a series of simple explainer videos please go to their dedicated website here.

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