Does any country have 'a functioning track and trace app'?
23 June 2020
What was claimed
No country currently has a functioning track and trace app.
Multiple countries have launched apps, including Germany, France, Australia, Singapore and Latvia. However uptake has been fairly low, and it’s too early to say whether they will be effective in helping combat Covid-19.
“Yes of course it’s perfectly true that it would be great to have an app, but no country currently has a functioning track and trace app.”
In Parliament, Boris Johnson said no country currently has “a functioning track and trace app” for countering Covid-19.
How accurate this claim is depends on what you understand by “functioning”. Multiple countries have launched contact tracing apps (which use the phone’s built-in technology to detect when the user has been in close contact with another app user who tests positive for Covid-19), and those apps have been downloaded by millions of people.
Although these apps could certainly be described as “functioning”, it is important to note that track and trace apps are not expected to be particularly effective unless they are downloaded by a large percentage of the population. Many countries that have launched apps have seen problems with the level of uptake.
In France, a mobile track and trace app ‘StopCovid France’ was launched on 2 June. On 16 June, Reuters reported that 1.5 million people had downloaded it, approximately 2% of the French population. The French app uploads contact data to government-run centralised servers.
Germany’s Corona-Warn-App was launched on 16 June, and has so far been downloaded 12.2 million times. Reuters reported that it uses existing Apple and Google technology and measures close contacts using Bluetooth short-range radio. Contacts are logged securely on devices rather than a centralised server.
Back in March, Singapore launched a track and trace app based on Bluetooth technology called Trace Together. Earlier this month, Forbes reported that Singapore was planning on rolling out wearable tracking devices that will not rely on smartphone ownership, after just 20% of the population downloaded the original app.
Iceland’s track and trace app, which uses GPS tracking instead of Bluetooth, was launched in April, and in May was reported to have been downloaded by 38% of the population.
So while it’s certainly true that some countries have launched track and trace apps, it may be too early to know whether these apps are having the intended effect in helping to contain the spread of the pandemic.
We can’t sugar coat how difficult this year has been for good information.
News this year has fractured communities, and caused confusion and panic for many of us. No one can control what will happen next. But you can support a debate based on fair, accurate and transparent information.
As independent, impartial fact checkers, we rely on individuals like you to ensure the most dangerously false inaccuracies can be called out and challenged.
Could you chip in to support an accurate and fair debate today?