Coronavirus app downloads quickly reach 1 million

Finland may set a world record for adoption of a pandemic app, says the THL.

The coronavirus app is so far only available in Finnish and Swedish. Image: Silja Viitala / Yle

A mobile phone application developed by health officials to help curtail the spread of Covid-19 has been quickly adopted by people in Finland.

The free contact tracing app was released on Monday by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL). So far it is available only in Finnish and Swedish. THL says an English version will be released this autumn.

As of early Tuesday morning, the app had been downloaded 880,000 times, according to the institute's Director of Information Services, Aleksi Yrttiaho. By 8am, the number had exceeded one million. That corresponds to nearly one fifth of Finland's population of 5.52 million.

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THL Director of Information Services Aleksi Yrttiaho unveiled the app on Monday. Image: Petteri Bülow / Yle

Yrttiaho said that at the current rate, Finland may set a world record for adoption of a pandemic app. The more people use the app, the more effective it will be in tracing and notifying of possible exposures, he said.

"Even 880,000 downloads lowers the risk of infections," Yrttiaho told Yle on Tuesday morning.

Public health authorities had set a target of one million users within the first month. Now that was reached within the first 24 hours or so.

The target was based on levels in other countries where similar apps have been introduced. So far about one fifth of the populations of these countries have taken the applications into use.

Yrttiaho says it would be ideal if half of the population would use the app.

"Particularly in Uusimaa, it would be really good if half of the population would use the app," said deputy chief physician Eeva Ruotsalainen, who is in charge of Covid-19 tracing in the densely-populated Helsinki-Uusimaa healthcare district (HUS).

"Far too much close contact at the moment"

Ruotsalainen says that within the past two weeks, as many cases have been confirmed in Uusimaa as during the peak period of last spring. She says that people are having far too much close contact at the moment.

The app asks anyone who has a confirmed case of Covid-19 to input this information, which is then anonymously relayed to anyone who has been in close contact with them within the preceding 14 days.

"The app brings additional support for the measures that are already in place. If you get a notification, make your own analysis of the situation and immediately seek treatment if you have symptoms," Ruotsalainen said.

If someone gets a notification but does not feel any symptoms, she recommends they go into self-imposed quarantine and avoid close contact with others or at least wear a mask.

12.49: Updated with latest figure and other details.

15.29: Updated with timing and other details.

2 September at 12:17pm: Article altered to reflect that Koronavilkku does not use a phone's location data.