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Italy launches Immuni contact-tracing app: Here’s what you need to know

The Immuni contact-tracing app, designed to help Italy manage phase two of the coronavirus crisis, went nationwide on Monday, June 15th.

Italy launches Immuni contact-tracing app: Here's what you need to know
A contact-tracing app in Singapore. Photo: Catherine Lai/AFP

The first trials of the app began in the regions of Liguria, Puglia, Marche and Abruzzo on June 8th before later being rolled out across Italy a week later.

Three people using the app in Liguria tested positive for the virus and were able to send an alert to other users they came into contact with, according to regional president Giovanni Toti.

READ ALSO: When will a Covid-19 vaccine be available in Italy?

The launch of the app had been delayed amid concerns about users' privacy, and some local authorities doubt how useful it will be. Many critics point out that it won't be effective unless a large enough percentage of the population downloads it.

In Puglia, for example, local health authorities say the app will need to be downloaded by at least 10 percent of local residents for it to be effective.

But authorities say the app is being well received, with some 500,000 downloads reported within 24 hours after the app was made available on the Apple and Google stores on June 1st.

Some 2.2 million people, out of Italy's total population of 60 million, had downloaded the app by June 15th.

How does the Immuni app work?

Use of the app is voluntary. Developed by Milan-based startup Bending Spoons, it works using Bluetooth.

After installation, it requires some basic personal details including your town of residence. After that, “the system will function automatically”, according the app's official website.

If two smartphones with the app installed are less than one metre apart, they exchange automatically generated codes which make it possible to trace previous contacts in case one of the users is diagnosed with the virus.

When local health authorities register a new case of coronavirus, they can add a code into the system, with the consent of the patient.

The system then sends notification to users who have been in close contact with the positive case.

“By being alerted early, users can contact their general practitioner and, therefore, lower the risk of serious consequences,” the app's website states.

The app is currently available in English or Italian. Support for German, French, and Spanish is “coming very soon,” according to the website's FAQ.

“The app uses the same language that’s set on  the user's smartphone, where available.”

Graphic: Immuni

Should I be concerned about privacy?

The codes are anonymous, and don’t contain personal information about the users, health authorities said.

“It is an innovative, technological support to the initiatives the government has already put into place to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” said a joint statement by the ministries of health and of innovation and the premier's department.

“It was developed in compliance with Italian and European legislation to protect privacy.”

Data collected will be stored on the device, not on a central server.

The system will not trace movements and data can only be shared with the user’s permission. Any data collected and shared with the central server will be deleted by December 31st, 2020.

You can find further details, in Italian or English, at immuni.italia.it

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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

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