What you need to know about technical error with Denmark’s Smittestop Covid-19 app

A technical issue has been detected with the Smittestop app used to help trace Covid-19 in Denmark.

What you need to know about technical error with Denmark’s Smittestop Covid-19 app
Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

The technical problem may have caused certain users not to be notified they have been close to a person infected with coronavirus, when in fact this was the case.

It is currently unknown whether the issue has been present since the app was launched in June, according to DR.

Newspaper Politiken has reported that Copenhagen city councillor Pia Allerslev found that her family did not receive warnings from the app even though she tested positive for Covid-19 and had been close to them for over 15 minutes, the requirement for the notification.

Similar situations have subsequently been reported in other media in Denmark.

“We have recently tested the app to recreate the situation and appear to have found a possible cause for (the error),” Lene Ærbo, the technical leader of the app for the Danish health ministry, told DR.

Technical staff are working to confirm the error before releasing an update, according to the broadcaster’s report.

“We can see that in some cases, where mobile phones are together for a longer period, for example people who live together, close contacts don’t get a (possible) infection notification,” Ærbo said.

She added that because Google and Apple, who developed the Danish app, update it on an ongoing basis, it was not currently possible to say whether the error has always existed.

The Smittestop app is regarded as a supplement to manual contact tracing in Denmark, which is conducted by the Danish Patient Safety Authority (Styrelsen for Patientsikkerhed).

One of its key intended functions is to identify infection chains between people who do not know each other.

Ærbo said to DR that the technical problem is limited to very close contacts – such as people in the same household – and not those for which contact had a relatively short duration.

“We can see that infection notifications are sent out for short-lived contacts. That is typically unknown contacts, so this is positive,” she said.

“But there have been challenges with household contacts and we are testing and working to improve this as soon as possible,” she added.

According to Ministry of Health figures reported by DR, 2,266 people registered their positive coronavirus test on the app between its launch and September 21st. The app has been downloaded 1,393,967 times.

App users who experience problems are advised to contact support on telephone number 44222080.

READ ALSO: Which European countries' coronavirus phone apps have had the most success?

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New Covid-19 wave in Sweden ‘to peak at end of September’

Sweden's Public Health Agency has warned of a new autumn wave of Covid-19 which it expects to peak at the end of September.

New Covid-19 wave in Sweden 'to peak at end of September'

According to both of the two new scenarios published by the agency on Monday, infection rates are set to rise steadily over the next month, something the agency said was due to a falling immunity in the population and greater contact between people as they return to schools and workplaces after the summer. 

“It is difficult to say how high the peak will be, but it is unlikely that it will reach the same levels as in January and February,” the agency’s unit chief Sara Byfors said in a press release. “The most important thing is that people in risk groups and those who are 65 years old and above get vaccinated with a booster dose in the autumn to reduce the risk of serious illness and death.” 

Under Scenario 0, the amount of contact between people stays at current levels, leading to a peak in reported Covid-19 cases at around 5,000 a day. In Scenario 1, contact between people increases by about 10 percent from the middle of August, leading to a higher peak of about 7,000 reported cases a day. 

The agency said that employers should be prepared for many staff to be off sick simultaneously at points over the next month, but said in its release that it did not judge the situation to be sufficiently serious to require either it or the government to impose additional infection control measures. 

It was important, however, it said, that those managing health and elderly care continued to test those with symptoms and to track the chain of infections, that people go and get the booster doses when they are supposed to have under the vaccination programme, and that those who have symptoms of Covid-19 stay home.