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As Europe faces 2nd wave of virus, tracing apps lack impact

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As Europe faces 2nd wave of virus, tracing apps lack impact

LONDON (AP) — Mobile apps tracing new COVID-19 cases were touted as a key part of Europe’s plan to beat the coronavirus outbreak. Seven months into the pandemic, virus cases are surging again and the apps have not been widely adopted due to privacy concerns, technical problems and lack of interest from the public. Britain, Portugal, and Finland this month became the latest to unveil smartphone apps that alert people if they’ve been near someone who turned out to be infected so they can seek treatment or isolate – a key step in breaking the chain of contagion.

But a few countries have scrapped their tracing apps and others that have rolled them out have found so few users that the technology is not very effective. The adoption rate goes from about a third of the population in Finland and Ireland, to 22% in Germany and a meager 4% in France. Health officials initially targeted a 60% adoption rate, an optimistic goal based on an Oxford University study from April although researchers noted a lower uptake still helps if other measures, such as social distancing, are enforced.

Kevin Kelly, an accountant in Limerick, Ireland, says his country’s app is easy to use and helps gauge local infection trends by showing how many cases each county has. He mainly uses the check-in feature to report his symptoms daily, but worries that only a fraction of the other 1.3 million users do, too.

“Everyone downloaded it but I’m not sure who is regularly using it,” said Kelly, 43.

The exposure alert function has so far been less useful: he hasn’t received any. “Unless there’s a […]

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