Italy plans to use app to trace contacts of people infected by coronavirus

‘It will be a pillar of our strategy to deal with the post-emergency phase,’ special commissioner for emergency says

UK coronavirus lockdown extended for three weeks, says Dominic Raab

Italy is testing a contact-tracing smartphone app to monitor people who test positive for coronavirus as part of efforts to lift its nationwide lockdown.

Though the government extended its lockdown until 3 May last week, it is looking at how it can loosen the restrictions it has implemented to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Italy was the original epicentre of the virus outbreak in Europe and has the world’s highest death toll from the virus, with more than 22,000 fatalities, second only to the United States.

It plans to use an app developed by tech start-up Bending Spoons, Domenico Arcuri, the government’s special commissioner for the coronavirus emergency, told state broadcaster RAI on Thursday.

“We are working to test a contact-tracing app in some Italian regions,” Mr Arcuri said, adding that the aim was to make the app available for the entire country after regional training.

“It will be a pillar of our strategy to deal with the post-emergency phase,” he said.

Smartphone apps and similar technology have been used widely in Asian countries such as Singapore and South Korea to track the contagion, but Europe has been apprehensive about adopting such methods over the potential for data abuse and privacy violations.

Last month, Italy’s Innovation Ministry launched a tender for app developers volunteering their services.

A special committee from Italy’s Innovation Ministry selected the Bending Spoons product from hundreds of proposals after it launched a tender last month for app developers volunteering their services.

The Milan-based developer, which has worked on apps ranging from fitness to video-editing tools, is part of the Pan-European Privacy Preserving Proximity Tracing (PEPP-PT) initiative, which has promoted a European platform to allow national contact-tracing apps to “talk” to each other across borders.

The Bending Spoons app, initially named Immuni, uses Bluetooth to record when users are in close proximity, people with knowledge of the service told Reuters.

If someone tests positive for the virus, the app would send an alert to users who they have been in contact with, suggesting they self-quarantine and test themselves for the virus.

Proponents of Bluetooth technology have said the method is a more accurate and less intrusive way to log proximity and the length of contact than location-tracking based on networks or satellites – methods used in some Asian countries.

Mr Arcuri said the app would be used voluntarily, in line with recommendations by Italy’s data protection authority and European privacy rules.

“But we hope our citizens will adopt it massively, as their support is needed to make a contact-tracing system work,” he added.

Experts have said the app would need to be downloaded by at least 60 per cent of the population to achieve so-called digital herd immunity.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in