Germany to launch new phone app to track coronavirus infections anonymously within weeks

Speaking to Sky News, Dr Ulf Buermeyer, one of the developers of the app, explained how Germany’s phone tracking application can alert users when they have come to contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus. He said: “The idea is that smartphones will send so-called beacons, digital markers that they are just being around, sending out anonymous IDs and that’s very important to other smartphones in the vicinity.

“Then scan for these beacons and first of all record which beacons they have seen close to that.

“This will allow for tracking which people came very close to contact.

“What you want to track is if people have come close by 1.5 metres or 2 metres for quite a while because that is the proximity that is likely to spread the disease.

“When one of the smartphone owners is found and tested positive for coronavirus, then these anonymous IDs can be sent to a central server and phones of people in his contacts can then be alert.”

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The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany has risen to 73,522 while 872 people have died of the disease, statistics from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Thursday.

Cases rose by 6,156 compared with the previous day while the death toll climbed by 140.

While Germany has been testing about 500,000 people a week, Britain’s current capacity is about 13,000 a day, a figure the government said it was aiming to double by mid-April.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised to ramp up coronavirus testing after his Government faced criticism for being slower than some European peers to roll out mass checks for front-line health workers and the population.


Britain initially took a restrained approach to the outbreak but changed tack after modelling showed a quarter of a million people in the country could die.

Mr Johnson imposed more stringent measures, effectively shuttering the world’s fifth-largest economy, but the Government has faced widespread criticism for having too few ventilators and too little testing.

“We’re also massively increasing testing,” Mr Johnson said in a video message from a flat in Downing Street where he is self-isolating after testing positive himself.

“I want to say a special word about testing because it is so important.

“As I have said for weeks and weeks, this is the way through: this is how we will unlock the coronavirus puzzle, this is how we will defeat it in the end.”

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Mr Johnson’s message, posted on Twitter on Wednesday evening, followed pledges from his ministers to accelerate both antibody and antigen testing in the days ahead after a slew of sometimes contradictory statements on numbers already checked.

Antibody tests detect signs of an immune response while antigen tests detect whether the coronavirus is present.

As of April 1, 152,979 people in the United Kingdom had been tested, of which 29,474 were confirmed positive. Deaths rose 31 percent to 2,352 as of 1600 GMT on March 31.

More than a half of Britons think Boris Johnson’s Government was too slow to order a lockdown, an Ipsos MORI poll showed.

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