German virus app transmitted 1.2M test results in 100 days

A woman wearing a face mask checks her cellphone downtown in Munich, Germany, Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader) (Matthias Schrader, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

BERLIN – Germany's coronavirus tracing app has been used to transmit 1.2 million test results from labs to users during its first 100 days, officials said Wednesday.

The Corona-Warn-App, downloaded more than 18 million times since its launch in June, was touted by the government as a key tool in the country's effort to contain the spread of the virus.

The app, like others in Europe, has suffered a number of technical hiccups, but Health Minister Jens Spahn insisted it should be considered a success. He noted that most app users can now get their COVID-19 test result sent directly to their smartphones, without having to wait for their doctor to inform them.

“The faster transmission of test results makes a huge difference,” Spahn said, adding that the tracing of possible contacts is all the more effective the sooner it begins.

Almost 5,000 people with positive test results have so far used the app to warn others they were in close contact with, he said.

Spahn said the warning messages displayed by the app, which have caused confusion and annoyance among some users, would be improved to provide clearer guidance.

Getting precise data on the number of people alerted about possible exposures has been hampered by Germany's strict privacy rules, which mean the app stores all data only on users' phones and not a central server.

Tim Hoettges, the chief executive of Deutsche Telekom, which developed the app with software giant SAP, said more than 90% of labs in Germany are now able to transmit results directly to users.

Efforts are underway to establish a European ‘gateway’ that will allow the German app to communicate with those in 10 other European countries, including Italy, Poland and Spain, which use the same decentralized, Bluetooth-based system, he said.

Germany has seen a rise in coronavirus cases in recent weeks, though the increase hasn't been as sharp as in many neighboring countries.

The Robert Koch Institute, Germany's disease control agency, recorded 1,769 additional infections in the past 24 hours, taking the total to 275,927 since the start of the outbreak. The death toll in Germany, a country of 83 million, stood at 9,409, an increase of 13 from Tuesday.