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Germany’s coronavirus tracing app alerts first users

More than 12 million people have downloaded Germany's new Corona-Warn-App so far. And for the first time since it launched last week, it has alerted users at risk of having coronavirus.

Germany's coronavirus tracing app alerts first users
The Corona-Warn-App (corona warning app). Photo: DPA

An estimated 20-30 users have so far registered on the app that they've contracted coronavirus, Spiegel reported on Thursday.

And on Tuesday night, those who had been in contact with these people over a certain period of time will have received a corresponding warning message from the app.

App users who have received this notification can get in touch with their local health authorities and be tested for coronavirus free of charge.

However, it's not mandatory – authorities have no way of knowing who's been alerted. That's because the information is not collected centrally, but instead on users' smartphones to protect privacy.

The data is encrypted and automatically deleted after two weeks.

The app was launched on June 16th, with authorities calling it a “big step” in the battle to control the spread of Covid-19.

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To calculate the risk of a person getting the virus, the app takes into account how long the contact with infected persons was, how much distance there was between them, and when exactly the infected persons tested positive.

The app can only display the estimated risk of infection, so anyone who gets a warning message is advised to get tested.

Now for the science part…

The app uses bluetooth to monitor which other smartphones using the app are in the vicinity and for how long. 

If you come into contact with someone for around 15 minutes or more who also has the app, has tested positive for Covid-19 and submitted this information into the app, you'll receive the warning message.

No details, such as who tested positive or the location of where the person was, are disclosed.

Germany's app in the spotlight in UK

It came as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was confronted over his claim that no country has a working contact-tracing app with news about Germany.

Labour leader Keir Starmer told Johnson that Germany's app launched last week and had 12 million downloads.

“Other countries are ahead of us. When are we going to have a working app?” Starmer said.
 
Media in Germany, including Welt, ran stories about the House of Commons clip.

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COVID-19

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Since the start of Germany’s Oktoberfest, the incidence of Covid infections in Munich has risen sharply. Though a connection with the festival can’t yet be proven, it seems likely.

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Two weeks after the start of Oktoberfest, the Covid numbers in Munich have more than tripled.

On Sunday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported an incidence of 768.7 for the city of Munich, though updated figures for the end of the festival are not expected until later in the week. Usually, on weekends and public holidays, there is a delay in reports.

In the entire state of Bavaria, the incidence value on Sunday was 692.5.

According to Munich’s public health officer, Beatrix Zurek, bed occupancy in Munich hospitals has also increased. Two weeks ago, 200 beds in Munich were occupied by Covid patients, whereas there are now around 350.

Though a relationship between the sharp rise in infections with Oktoberfest, which ended on Monday, can’t be proven at the moment, it seems very likely, according to experts. A significant increase in Covid incidences has also been shown at other public festivals – about one and a half weeks after the start. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s famed Oktoberfest opens after two-year pandemic hiatus

After a two-year break due to the pandemic, around 5.7 million visitors came to this year’s Wiesn according to the festival management – around 600,000 fewer than at the last Oktoberfest before the pandemic in 2019, when there were 6.3 million.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) took to Twitter to comment on the rise in incidence in Munich during the Oktoberfest. “This would not have been necessary if self-tests had been taken before admission,” he said.

“Compared to the price of a measure of beer, €2-3 (for tests) wouldn’t have mattered,” he said.

Even before the start of the Wiesn, he had spoken out in favour of people taking voluntary self-tests. Lauterbach stressed that now is the time for special measures against Covid.

“The development shows what will happen if the states wait too long with the mask obligation in indoor areas,” he added.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s new Covid-19 rules from October

In neighbouring counties, where many Oktoberfest visitors came from, the number of Covid cases has also risen noticeably.  Beatrix Zurek said that it is unclear, however, how much of a role Oktoberfest played in these figures, as people are currently much more active socially overall, with concerts and other events also taking place throughout the state.

Christoph Spinner, an infections specialist at Munich’s Klinikum, has urged people not to be alarmed by the rising numbers.

“We had expected rising incidences here. We knew that there could be a doubling, tripling, even quadrupling,” he said.

He said that this is no cause for concern, as many people have been vaccinated or have also recovered from previous Covid infections, so any new infections are therefore usually mild.

The virologist advises people over 60 or with pre-existing conditions to get a second booster vaccination, but otherwise said people shouldn’t be alarmed by the rising incidences.

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