Germany Rejects Criticism as Covid Tracing App Finally Goes Live

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Germany’s new coronavirus tracing app will help break infection chains and allow the country to manage the return to normality more effectively, according to Health Minister Jens Spahn.

Spahn rejected criticism that it took authorities too long to develop the app, a joint project with telecommunications companyDeutsche Telekom AG and software developerSAP SE. It’s being introduced after Germany brought its virus outbreak under control relatively quickly, with the daily number ofnew cases far below the peak of close to 7,000 in late March.

“We are in a good situation and we want to protect that,” Spahn said Tuesday in an interview with ZDF television, emphasizing that the app is voluntary and personal data will be “well protected.”

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Governments around the world have been debating how to monitor citizens to help slow the spread of the virus. The U.K. National Health Service has said it will build its own app, joining countries like Australia and Singapore, where such a technology has already been introduced.

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In Germany, collecting personal data is particularly sensitive given the nation’s history of living under dictatorships where citizens were closely monitored and controlled. While using the software is voluntary, its success will depend on how many people sign up for it.

“We are finding ourselves more and more in situations where we don’t know the people around us -- at demonstrations, in the train, in the bus,” Spahn said. “The app makes a difference there because it can provide information about contacts from the previous two weeks.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel has repeatedly warned about the risk of a second wave, and officials are closely watching the reproduction factor of the virus, known as R-naught. It ticked further above the key threshold of 1.0 on Monday, rising to 1.19 from 1.05 the previous day.

The number represents the course of infection approximately one to two weeks earlier and is sensitive to short-term changes, such as local outbreaks, especially if the number of new cases is relatively low.

Spahn and other government ministers, as well as executives from Deutsche Telekom and SAP, are due to present the app at a news conference in Berlin later on Tuesday.

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