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It's here: Finland's coronavirus tracing app

Health agency THL launched its 'Koronavilkku' smartphone app on Monday.

Koronavilkku-sovellus puhelimessa.
THL's Koronavilkku is a free application available in app stores. Image: Silja Viitala / Yle

Finland’s contact tracing app, Koronavilkku (roughly translated as "corona flash" in English), is now available for download in the Google Play and App Store.

The application, produced by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), runs in Finnish and Swedish. THL said an English-language version of the app will be released later in September.

"The app won't solve problems related to tracing--in fact, the app will probably increase the workload of human tracers," Kirsi Varhila of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health said at a government press conference on Monday.

How it works

The system works by app users sending randomly generated codes via Bluetooth signal to each other when they come into close contact for at least 15 minutes. The smartphones then store anonymous information about the contact event.

Users of the app who eventually test positive for the virus are then encouraged to enter their status into the app. This is done by tapping a key code in the app sent from health services. Koronavilkku then alerts others on the anonymous contact list who may be at risk of exposure to the virus and provides instructions on how to proceed.

According to both THL and app developer Solita, neither the application nor any authority has any say in what an app user does when receiving notification of a possible exposure.

THL has said it's hopeful that the app will gain up to a million users in Finland by September. Around 84 percent of people in Finland have a smartphone, Aleksi Yrttiaho of the THL said on Monday.

"We're in a good situation in Finland, but we're still going to be living with this pandemic for some time," THL director Mika Salminen told reporters on Monday and encouraged young people in particular to adopt the app.

Varhila from the health ministry said a second phase of the app may include integration with similar tracing apps running in other EU states.

14:30: Updated to reflect comments from a government press conference.

2 September at 11:35am: Article altered to reflect that Koronavilkku does not use a phone's location data.

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