Latvia develops mobile app to help stop the  spread of COVID-19

Latvia develops mobile app to help stop the spread of COVID-19

Latvian-developed mobile app ApturiCovid (Stop Covid) meets requirements of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) because it does not use data from the global positioning system ((GPS))to track its users, said the president of LLC LatvijasMobilaisTelefons (LMT) Juris Binde at the presentation of the app.

He stressed the data stored by the app will be deleted after 14 days. This term meets the accepted COVID-19 incubation period.

LETA was able to learn the app does not request any special Android permissions to track the user’s movement.

Binde particularly outlined that all data acquired by the app is encrypted. Additionally, codes provided to users are anonymous – it is not possible to trace codes to individual users. LMT president mentions that statistical models show that if 15-20% of residents use this app, it will help bring considerable benefits.

Commenting on development of the app, Binde stressed that cooperation with technology giants Google and Apple played a major role. The two companies created an environment in which it is possible to use Bluetooth to detect contact with a COVID-19 positive person or a person who has had prior contact with a patient.

Binde said Latvia is the first country in the world to have developed a universal app with global application capabilities. He also thanked all software developers, adding that private and state sector representatives had participated in the development process. LMT president also thanked Latvia’s Disease Monitoring and Prevention Control Centre (SPKC) and the State President’s Chancellery for their assistance.

He also revealed that a memorandum has been signed with multiple industry representatives. This memorandum outlines the app’s basic principles – anonymity and voluntary use.

LLC MakIT board chairman Arvis Zeile said the project was developed by a 20 man team. The businessman added that iPhone and Android users will have to update their software for the app to work.

He also revealed that later on residents will have access to the source code of the app. According to public information, release of the source code is generally used to put users’ suspicions about software to rest, because by using the source code it is possible to analyse the app and how it works.

Latvian Prime Minister KrišjānisKariņš said that initially, at the beginning of the spread of COVID-19, the first requirement for residents was to stay home and self-isolate in order to prevent the spread of the virus. According to him, Latvia has succeeded there, but, considering there is no medicine or vaccine against COVID-19, there is no way for the state to keep the economy frozen forever. It is necessary for people to learn to live with the virus in a clever way. This app could help limit the spread, said the government’s leader.

“This is an example of Latvian specialists proving we are able to quickly react and create something valuable and useful,”said the prime minister.

SPCK Infectious Diseases Risk Analysis and Prevention Department’s Immunization Office head ElīnaDimiņa said so far specialists have cooperated with more than 3 500 people who had been in contact with COVID-19 patients.

According to her, many believe Latvians have been living with COVID-19 for a long time. In reality, however, the first confirmed infection case in Latvia was found on 3 March. Not much time has passed since then. The number of patients continues to decline, but almost every week there are reports of new outbreaks.

She said people most often become infected at home or the place they stay at for extended periods of time. “There are reasons behind this. The main one is that people have a very small number of contacts because of different kinds of restrictions. We mainly meet our relatives and close colleagues. We rarely visit public places and public events,” explains SPKC specialist, adding that society is directly involved in limiting the spread of the disease.

Dimiņa reminds that the virus is dangerous and man is the source of the infection.

A single infected person can pass the infection to an average of two to three other people. In a crowd, however, the number of potential infections increases further.

There have been plenty of asymptomatic cases thus far. This is why it is vital to determine as quickly as possible where the person may have gotten infected in order to take proper measures, says SPKC specialist.

“Although Latvia is doing well – the pandemic is not over yet,” concluded Dimiņa.

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