Dutch coronavirus app rolls out nationally Oct. 10 after months of talks
Nearly six months after talks started about an official Dutch coronavirus notification application, the CoronaMelder mobile app will be ready for use nationally on Saturday, the Cabinet said in a statement. The start date of October 10 was delayed by over seven weeks from its initial release date as the country continued to grapple with a shortage of test capacity to diagnose SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus infections.
Use of the app is voluntary. The app notifies users if they have been in the vicinity of someone infected with the virus for an extended period of time. CoronaMelder uses Bluetooth technology to detect other devices nearby with the app installed on them. When someone with the app tests positive for the viral infection, a worker from municipal health service GGD will ask the person if they want to use the app to notify others, something which is not obligatory.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Eerste Kamer, the upper house of Dutch parliament, voted to approve the temporary law which cleared approval of the apps use by a 51 to 19 majority. Far-right nationalist parties PVV and FvD voted against the proposal, along with animal rights party PvdD, Denk, and the independent factions Krol, Van Haga, and Van Kooten-Arissen.
“It's great that the use of CoronaMelder is being embraced by both Houses [of Parliament]. We must do everything we can to stop the spread of the virus," said Health Minister Hugo de Jonge following the vote. "The app can play an important role in this, so it is high time to start using it in the Netherlands now.”
The ministry said the app is additional to GGD source and contact tracing, and does not store location data. "Moreover, people should never be forced, directly or indirectly, by anyone to use the app," the ministry said.
The Eerste Kamer members voted unanimously to pass a motion calling for the CoronaMelder app to also be made available independently of Apple iOS and Android devices. Two amendments were also rejected, including one to delay the app's release until test capacity is expanded, and another to show statistical data about the app's usefulness when someone installs it on their device.
Months ago the app was made available for download, and has since been installed 1.3 million times. Practical testing began on August 17 in five regions of the Netherlands.