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Finland’s coronavirus tracing app to launch in August

Launching the smartphone contact tracing app will require conformity to privacy laws.

Details of the plan for a tracing app were presented Thursday by Health Ministry and Health and Welfare Institute representatives. Image: Markku Ulander / Lehtikuva

A nationwide mobile app to trace the spread of the novel coronavirus is expected to be formally launched in Finland this August.

According to Päivi Salo, who is the general secretary at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the government is aiming at presenting a bill to parliament enabling the launch of the app next week.

If passed, the bill will add a temporary provision to legislation on communicable diseases which will allow for use of the app in the collection of data. A draft of the bill is currently being reviewed to assure that it complies with personal privacy and data protection laws.

Use of the app will be voluntary. It will register neither locations nor the relationship between users. It is primarily intended to provide people with an indication that they may have been exposed to the virus.

Salo pointed out on Thursday that the app will not replace conventional tracing methods. If fact, she said, the additional data the app provides would increase the workload of tracers. Responsibility for tracing falls upon local governments in Finland.

Anyone with a confirmed diagnosis of infection with the coronavirus will be able to personally decide whether or not to register via the app. The individual also will decide if the information is to be shared with health authorities.

Salo stressed that registering via the app as being infected will not trigger a quarantine order.

The app has been piloted at Vaasa Central Hospital.

Sufficient PPE

According to a joint situation briefing presented by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), Finland currently has sufficient stockpiles of personal protection equipment to meet demand.

Tuija Kumpulainen of the health ministry, described the situation as "only moderately good" regarding the country's supply of face masks, but "good" regarding other protective equipment.

At the same time, she pointed out that additions are constantly being made to stockpiles in order to meet higher demand if and when there is a resurgence of the epidemic.

Taneli Puumalainen, head of the infectious diseases unit at THL told the media that due to government-imposed restrictions and improved hygienic practices, the coronavirus situation is Finland is "good".

At the moment, eight of the country's 20 hospital districts have not recorded a single new confirmed case in over a week. Many other districts have reported only a few individual cases.

Puumalainen said that testing capacity in Finland is at a good level. At present, 13,000 tests can be processed daily. So far, over 190,000 samples have been tested.

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