National launch of Dutch coronavirus app delayed
The Dutch government's coronavirus notification app CoronaMelder will not launch on Tuesday, September 1, as planned. Minister Hugo de Jonge of Public Health decided to postpone the national launch until after the law that must regulate the use of the app is in place. The Minister recently submitted this emergency bill to the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament, Het Parool reports.
When the bill will be passed and implemented, is not yet clear. The idea behind the app is that it will make source and contact tracing easier for health service GGD. The CoronaMelder uses Bluetooth to register the location of other smartphones that also have the app installed. If a CoronaMelder user tests positive for the coronavirus, the GGD can use the app to notify all other app-users who had been in close vicinity with the patient for more than 15 minutes. The app became available in app stores two weeks ago and was downloaded by over a million people, despite it still being in its test phase and only working in certain areas.
The app was tested by GGDs in five regions over the past weeks. De Jonge reported to parliament that all participating GGDs had at least one infected person who had CoronaMelder installed on their phone and was willing to notify other app users through it. Over 400 people contacted the GGD to book a Covid-19 test after receiving a notification from the app.
According to Het Parool, a number of issues emerged during this test phase, and the postponed launch also gives De Jonge time to address these.
Bureau Berenschot analyzed the GGDs experience with the app and noted a number of complaints, according to the newspaper. Firstly, the app advises people who had close contact with a Covid-19 patient to get tested. That is contrary to the government advice to only get tested if you have symptoms. According to Parool, the GGDs experience this as annoying because it leads to confusion, but also because they feel they now have less control over what needs to be one. Testing capacity is also limited.
Another problem is that on some phones, the app only shows notifications if it is open. The Netherlands and other companies that use the same type of app are currently working with Google and Apple on a solution to this. At the moment though, the only option seems to be to ask users to open the app once a day - something Germany is already doing, the newspaper said.