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First peek: Finland's Covid-19 contact tracing app

The app will be most useful in densely populated urban areas and on closed spaces such as public transport.

The app will be available to download from 31 August. Image: Nella Nuora / Yle
Yle News

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) on Monday unveiled the coronavirus smartphone application for tracking and tracing infections after being trialled in the cities of Helsinki and Tampere last week.

The application, the use of which is completely voluntary, is called Koronavilkku in Finnish (roughly translated as 'corona flash') and will be available to download for free from app stores at the end of August.

The application aims to help users identify if they may have been exposed to the virus, so that they can take appropriate action, thereby curtailing infection rates in the event of a possible second wave of the virus hitting Finland, according to developers.

"The mobile app is especially useful in situations where you have been in close contact with strangers. Such situations can be, for example, public transport or training events," explained Aleksi Yrittiaho, THL's Director of Information Services.

A million users in sight

THL is hopeful that the app--which will store anonymous data about encounters with infected persons in users’ phones rather than in a large central database--will gain up to a million users in Finland by September.

People can simply forget about the app after they've downloaded it, explained Risto Kaikkonen, Director of Solita's Health and Wellbeing Division.

Koronavilkku collects location data from other app users staying within a two-metre proximity for at least 15 minutes. These are considered coronavirus exposure limits.

"If a person who meets these conditions is then diagnosed with a coronavirus infection, he or she can report it through the application. In that case, those who have been in close contact with the person during the previous three weeks and thus been exposed to the infection will receive a notification on their smartphone," Kaikkonen explained.

Infection info private

After receiving a notification of a possible exposure, the app user can then decide how to proceed, though officials recommend that they seek medical advice.

According to both THL and Solita, neither the application nor any authority will control what the app user decides to do when they receive notification of a possible exposure.

"We anticipate that the introduction of the app will cause an uptick in contacts to healthcare providers," Yrttiaho explained.

Article continues after photo.

THL hopes to secure a million users of the app within the first month. Image: Nella Nuora / Yle

Users who wish to share a lab-confirmed infection can only do so with a special code provided by healthcare services. This is to safeguard the app from false reports.

Both THL and Solita added that the application is one additional tool in efforts to limit a possible second wave of the pandemic, as they hope that the app will reveal infection chains faster and more accurately than trackers currently can.

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