On 26 August 2020, Czech Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Dita Charanzová of the Renew Europe Group posed a written parliamentary question to the European Commission:
“Before the summer, there was an intense debate regarding the use of contact tracing apps to help lift lockdowns and prevent a second wave of COVID-19. Some Member States have already rolled out apps and others will follow soon. However, in the midst of what many now regard as a second wave, it is important to assess the strengths and shortcomings of current apps and their uptake in order to make them even more effective in combating the pandemic.
It is also clear that we need interoperable applications to ensure maximum voluntary uptake of these apps and secure freedom of movement throughout the EU. The voluntary gateway service being set up by the Commission is therefore vital. However, some Member States, such as France and Hungary, risk being excluded because they are not using the technologies offered by Apple and Google.
1. What solutions has the Commission come up with to ensure that national tracing apps using alternative technologies are not excluded from the gateway system, which will facilitate interoperability?
2. How long will it take to include those applications?
3. Does the Commission have any data on the effectiveness and uptake of different Member State apps?”
On 3 February 2021, Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton responded on behalf of the European Commission stating:
“1. Member States, supported by the Commission, have worked to ensure a safe exchange of information between national contact tracing apps in line with the Common Toolbox. The agreed technical specifications can connect apps already launched or planned for launch in twenty Member States. The Commission launched a European Federation Gateway Service to implement interoperability. Nine countries are currently connected to this server. Discussions continue in weekly meetings of the eHealth Network to extend interoperability to the minority of apps that are not supported by the Google/Apple Exposure Notification application programming interface.
2. Connecting apps with different architectures is a complex exercise and the Commission cannot yet say when this will be achieved.
3. Most Member States consider contact tracing apps to have a key role in interrupting the transmission chain of the virus. The Commission supports the work of the Member States in evaluating the apps in line with the Common Toolbox, which identifies success factors such as uptake, public trust and the number of people notified by the app of potential exposure. According to Member States’ reports, there have been over 70 million downloads of national apps.”
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