'Stop COVID' app: useful despite errors

Latvian mobile app Apturi Covid (Stop COVID), which can identify possible contact with an infected person, is used more frequently. However, the notification to the contact persons can come with a delay of several days, reported Latvian Television investigative broadcast De facto November 29.

Currently, the Apturi Covid app has been downloaded nearly 250,000 times. One of the users is LTV journalist Aleksejs Dunda. On October 24, he found out he had been in contact with a COVID-19 positive person and immediately went into self-isolation.

Two days later, October 26, Dunda was officially notified of the status of a contact person by his general practitioner. A day later, October 27 - by the Disease Prevention and Control Center (SPKC).

“It's like on Saturday and Sunday I could go to the SPA, the sauna, to the supermarket, to my relatives. Two days without knowing [officially] I'm a contact,” Dunda said.

The app contact notice came on October 27 – three days after the infected person's positive test and a day after the sick person entered the code received from the SPKC. People on social networks have also shared similar experiences. For example, when one enters the code, some contacts received a notification after six hours, others only the next day.

App developers explain that contact checks are not carried out, for example, every minute or hour, because then there would be a disproportionate consumption of resources, including energy.

“There was a need to look for that balance (..) because people would say that this app overloads the phone so that it dies after three hours and we get the opposite effect that people don't install it,” said one of the developers of the app, Arvis Zeile.

A compromise has been found with the SPKC: contact checks are carried out a few times a day and are completely sufficient. It also explains the delays. The application shows when there has been a verification of potential contact, how many codes have been checked and how many matches have been. Only if the contact was longer than 15 minutes and closer than two meters will there be a notification of contact with COVID-19.

There have been situations where the statement is received by people who seemed to have been close, but were separated by a thick wall. But, for example, people hadn't received a notification within one household because the phones had been left too far apart.

“We have to remember that this app is another additional tool to help and to look for [infection sources]. Of course, there are errors, but these errors, in our view, are worth it.

Because the big problem that the SPKC also now reports is that half of the situations are untraceable – this problem is real and great,” said LMT vice president Ingmārs Pūķis.

Since the application was launched, more than 720 codes have been generated by the SPKC, with at least 1300 contacts who entered their phone number in the application.

The National Health Service, which also maintains e-health, has recently carried out procurement to speed up epidemiological surveillance processes. It should explore both the narrower areas of the SPKC processes and make recommendations on what and how to improve, including information technology solutions.

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