COVID-19: latest developments on contact tracing apps in Europe 19 November 20 Elisar Bashir

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, most countries in Europe have been rolling out contact tracing applications as part of their strategies to limit the chain of coronavirus infections, both nationally and across borders.

A contact tracing app identifies and informs people who have been at risk of exposure (for a certain period and at a certain distance) to a person who is known to be infected with COVID-19. If a person reports an infection, the app sends an alert to the exposed people and may also provide relevant information from health authorities on the steps to be taken, e.g. advice to get tested or to self-isolate, and whom to contact (see our infographic).

Cullen International’s updated research on contact tracing applications across 14 European countries looks into their design and architecture, and adoption rate, as well as the steps taken by national governments and the European Commission to ensure cross-border interoperability between the different national apps.

The research shows that:

  • All surveyed countries have launched a contact tracing app, except for Slovakia and Sweden.
  • There have been more than 69m downloads of contact tracing applications across 11 of the surveyed European countries (16.6% of their overall population, based on data from national authorities and Eurostat). Germany and the UK have registered the highest number of downloads in absolute numbers (21.9m and 19m respectively), while Ireland, the UK and Germany have the highest adoption rates (40.2%, 28.3% and 26.3% of the population).
  • Most applications have a decentralised architecture, i.e. the processed data remains on the device, and use the technology developed by Apple and Google. Only France and Bulgaria have opted for a centralised system, i.e. data is stored on a central server.

The research further shows that:

  • The German, Irish and Italian apps are part of the first batch of apps already linked through the federated gateway service developed by the European Commission to ensure cross-border interoperability between national apps in Europe.
  • Most national data protection authorities (DPAs) were consulted prior to the launch of the apps.

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