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Coronavirus contact tracing app trials begin in Helsinki, Tampere

The app will make it easier to contact people who may have been exposed to the virus and to cut the infection chain.

Älypuhelin kädessä.
Health care and city workers will be the first to test drive the app. Image: Tiia Lillkvist/ Yle

Finland will begin trialling a new coronavirus contact tracing app from Tuesday according to the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, THL.

The agency said in a statement that a few dozen pilot users will include workers from the Tampere region's Pirkanmaa Hospital District as well as from the City of Helsinki. Other trial users will include personnel from the THL as well as benefits agency Kela and developers from IT firm Solita and the state-owned SoteDigi.

The pilot will proceed in two phases. This week users will install the app on their smartphones, after which the devices will be able to detect other app users who come into close contact.

One week later, the trial will expand to include an interface to be used by tracking professionals. This will ensure that nurses or infectious disease experts can send a code to phones used by people who test positive for the virus. This will in turn send an alert to other app users who have come into close contact with them informing that they may have been exposed to infection.

Eyes on data privacy and usability

The app will make it easier for officials to contact people who may have been exposed to Covid-19 and therefore to stop the chain of infection. It is based on randomly-generated tagging codes that cannot be used to identify individual users.

According to the THL, the pilot will allow developers to ensure that the app is easy to use and that it is absolutely secure. In addition, they will be checking to see that phones that have the app are able to reliably identify close contacts with other app users. The user interface health professionals will use must also operate smoothly.

Once the pilot is completed, the app should be ready for widespread use in September. Downloading will be voluntary but the THL said that the more people use it, the more useful it will be.

THL said that a marketing survey it conducted suggested that there was a strong level of interest among members of the public in using the app.

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