How other countries are using mobile technology in the fight against coronavirus

A smartphone app is being trialled on the Isle of Wight as the Government attempts to improve contact tracing Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA

An NHS contact tracing app being trialled on the Isle of Wight as part of the government’s test, track and trace strategy has been hailed by ministers as central to efforts in slowing the spread of coronavirus.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps described smartphone app for tracing the spread of coronavirus as the “best possible way to help the NHS”.

The UK is lagging behind several other countries who have taken the lead in contact tracing, including South Korea, Hong Kong and Germany, where outbreaks have been contained more quickly.

Here is how other countries have been using mobile technology in the fight against Covid-19:

  • Singapore

Developers of the TraceTogether app estimate around one in five people in the city state have downloaded the app, the first Bluetooth contact tracing app in the world.

Half of the 1.1 million downloads of the app came in the first 24 hours.

One in five people in Singapore have downloaded a tracing app. Credit: AP
  • China

China’s app gives users a colour based on a traffic light system – green for clear, red for a coronavirus contact – and it is reported that people need to have downloaded it in order to move about as widespread restrictions are lifted.

  • Australia

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Credit: AP

Australia released COVIDsafe on April 26 and more than four million people have started using the app.

Using the app is voluntary, but the government said 40% of Australians, or 10 million people, need to use it for the programme to be a success.

Speaking before the launch, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said more people downloading the app would speed up the reopening of pubs, adding: “If that isn’t an incentive for Australians to download COVIDsafe on a Friday, I don’t know what is.”

  • New Zealand

Across the Tasman Sea and New Zealand is also planning an app to help with contact tracing, but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it would have to be part of a number of measures.

She told reporters: “We are working on it but I have to say our big focus has been getting our in-person contact tracing right, because we will all still be relying on that.”

  • India

The Aarogya Setu app uses both GPS location and Bluetooth to track users and has been downloaded 50 million times.

The app is voluntary for Indian citizens, but the government made it mandatory for all of its employees to download and use it last week.

More people in India use feature phones than smartphones, presenting the government with a significant problem in its fight against Covid-19.

Hospital staff in India being showered with petals. Credit: AP
  • South Korea

South Korea sits apart from others on the list as it has not used an app-based solution to trace potential contacts.

Instead, authorities have tracked people using a number of sources including mobile device tracking and financial transaction information to alert potential contacts.

  • Elsewhere

The Czech Republic has released an app similar to the one used in Singapore, while North Macedonia’s StopKorona! app uses Bluetooth.

Smittestopp in Norway uses both GPS and Bluetooth, while apps are also in development in Italy, Austria and Germany.

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