Corona app is approaching moment of truth

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Coronalert is tested by 10,000 employees of Colruyt, EY, KU Leuven, hospitals and the civil service. After that, the app can go out into the sea at the end of this month. It will be especially useful in busy places, such as events and public transport.

The launch of the corona app is getting closer. 10,000 test persons will be the first to download Coronalert on Friday. They work at Colruyt, EY, KU Leuven, hospitals or in the civil service.

‘Those companies and organizations were chosen because they have enough people on the work floor,’ says Karin Moykens, who heads the interfederal testing and tracing committee.

The subjects will test the app for ten days mainly for its user-friendliness, because the chance that they will receive a report of a high-risk contact is quite small given the limited test population. Such reports were tested extensively in the previous phase, when some of the 100 subjects were allegedly infected.

‘Technically everything works’, says Roel Verbeeck, general manager of Ixor in Mechelen, which developed the app together with Devside in Brussels. The starting point was the open source code of the German app. The app does not keep any personal data at any time. ‘Coronalert is just as safe as the weather forecast app on your phone,’ says Verbeeck.

28 september

If the test goes smoothly, every Belgian will be able to download the app in the week of September 28 via the app stores of Google (Android) and Apple (iOS). A broad information campaign starts on October 5.



Concert goers will feel safer using the app.

Frank Robben

IT responsible for government projects

The use of the app is optional and anonymous. That is why manual tracing remains necessary. The call center employees do not know who uses Coronalert because of the anonymity. ‘It’s and-and, not either-or. The app will certainly come in handy on public transport and during events with a lot of people. Concertgoers will feel safer using the app, ‘says Frank Robben, who oversees government IT.

The app automates the listing and contacting of your contacts, which can be quite a chore after a visit to a busy event. Nevertheless, we still have to pass that list of contacts on to a manual tracer. There is a chance that your contacts will not use the app. They must then be notified by telephone.

‘Every bit helps’

The government is not proposing a percentage for the hoped-for use of the app. ‘Every little bit helps’, says Moykens. ‘It doesn’t matter, Coronalert completes the manual tracing.’

“Any contamination you can avoid is profit,” says Verbeeck. A similar app has been in vogue for some time in other countries. At the front runners Ireland and Iceland, 40 percent of the active population has installed the local app. The German app (20%) had already warned about hundreds of infections at the beginning of July.

Germany, together with Denmark, Ireland and Italy, is testing the European hub to allow the various apps to communicate with each other when people cross the border. Our country hopes to add that functionality at the end of October, beginning of November, says Moykens.

How does the corona app work?

Coronalert must help contain the spread of Covid-19. The app measures your high-risk contacts via Bluetooth: 15 minutes or more at a distance of less than two meters from another person. This registration does not take into account safety measures such as mouth masks, plexiglass and hand hygiene.

Your mobile phone stores all anonymous codes sent by Coronalert users with whom you came into close contact. In the background, the app constantly compares the codes on your mobile with the codes in the central database and sounds the alarm if there is a match. This database is managed by the federal government agency Sciensano.

You will be notified through the app if one of your contacts tested positive. Who that person is and where and when you were in contact cannot be determined – especially if it is a stranger on public transport or during a busy event.

The evaluation of the risk is an estimate. It is therefore possible that after a high-risk contact you do not turn out to be infected, or that you still contract the corona virus after an unregistered contact.

If you test positive yourself, you enter a code in the app, after which all people who came close to you are warned. The infected person is also contacted by a manual tracer.

Android requests location information

The user only needs to turn on bluetooth and not the location. Android makes an exception to this, however: in order for the exposure detection via bluetooth to work properly, it recommends enabling the location. Tracing head Karin Moykens ensures that the location data is not forwarded to the government, ‘they remain local on the phone’.

The app only works on smartphones less than five years old, with Android version 6 or iOS 13.5 (or higher) operating system on board. The Huawei devices that do not have access to the app stores are left out.

The app does not work on tablets, smartwatches and other wearables.

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