WARSAW (Reuters) – Poland is working on a smartphone application to help trace people who have come in contact with those infected with the coronavirus and warn them about the possible risk, the Digital Ministry said on Friday.
The initiative, which could help the government stop or slow the outbreak, comes after a group of European experts said on Wednesday they would soon launch similar technology and Germany said it hoped to release its own app within weeks.
Some Asian countries have already successfully used smartphones to track the spread of the virus and enforce quarantine orders, although their methods would violate strict European data protection rules.
Poland’s version would use Bluetooth technology to log connections between smartphones on a device, where encrypted data would be stored for two weeks.
The technology would not be used for collecting users’ data or tracking their location, the ministry said in a statement.
A user who gets sick would change his status in the application anonymously and it would inform users of all devices that had contact with him or her within the previous two weeks about a possible risk and the need for quarantine.
“The more people who use it, the more will be aware of the threat and take appropriate steps, for example by going into quarantine,” Poland’s Digital Minister Marek Zagorski was quoted as saying in the statement.
The ministry shared the application’s source code on Friday and said it was waiting for developers’ and testers’ comments. It is not clear when the application, called ProteGO, could be made available for users.
“ProteGO is an application designed for when the most severe restrictions implemented to fight the coronavirus pandemic are lifted. The purpose…is to control the spread of the disease,” the ministry said.
Poland launched a smartphone app, called Home Quarantine, in March for citizens returning from abroad, who have since March 15 been required to self-isolate for two weeks.
Poland has so far confirmed 3,149 novel coronavirus infections, while 59 people have died.
(Reporting by Anna Koper; Editing by Agnieszka Barteczko, Kirsten Donovan)