Germany’s Corona warning app stops giving alerts after three years

Following three years of use, Germany’s Corona warning app has stopped giving infection alerts. Just how successful was the app, which cost the government hundreds of millions of euros?

Corona Warn App
Germany's Corona warning app, which gave an alert about coming into contact with someone with Covid-19. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd Weißbrod

On June 16th, 2020, there was not yet a Covid-19 vaccination. But there was a new warning app, with which the German government had high hopes of protecting people.

“The Corona warning app is an important helper when it comes to recognising and interrupting chains of infection,” said then-Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“This is not the first Corona app to be introduced worldwide, but I’m pretty convinced it’s the best,” added Helge Braun, the then-head of the Chancellor’s Office added, 

Now almost three years have passed, all Covid measures have expired, and the most important function of the app has been turned off: the warnings after coming into contact with a person infected with Covid-19.

READ ALSO: Everything that changes in Germany in May 2023

App can still be used as a digital vaccination card

“It doesn’t make sense (to keep the alerts) with the low incidence we have at the moment,” said German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD). He added that the disease is also no longer as severe due to the high population immunity.

On June 1st, the Corona warning app will then go into sleep mode. This means that it will no longer be updated and will also disappear from the Google and Apple app stores. 

READ ALSO: Germany to repeal last protective measures against Covid-19

However, users can keep the app on their mobile phone if, for example, they saved their vaccination certificates there and want to continue using them. The contact diary function will also remain.

Lauterbach also urged users to keep the app saved in case of another Covid outbreak – or even pandemic. 

“It may very well be that we have to use it again for Covid. But it could also be that we develop it further for other infectious diseases,” he said.

Just how effective was the app?

Since its release nearly three years ago, the app has been downloaded a total of 48 million times, according to Germany’s Health Ministry.

However, it is not possible to say how many people have actively used it. No exact statistics are possible because the information is only stored locally on the mobile phone for data protection reasons.

FDP health politician Andrew Ullmann called for the Federal Health Ministry to evaluate just how successful the app actually was in preventing the spread of infection. 

“In terms of society as a whole, we still have to evaluate to what extent this app has actually helped,” he told the Tagesschau.

App was more expensive than planned

The app cost the government 220 million – significantly more than originally planned.

According to studies and estimates by the Corona warning app team, there were at least 25 million active users last year. 

In spring 2022, when there were high numbers of infections, the scientists assumed that about 17 percent of all positive Corona test results in Germany were shared via the Corona warning app.

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Could there be a new wave of Covid-19 in Germany this autumn?

It’s back again: amid sinking temperatures, the incidence of Covid-19 has been slowly rising in Germany. But is this enough to merit worrying about the virus?

Could there be a new wave of Covid-19 in Germany this autumn?

More people donning face masks in supermarkets, friends cancelling plans last minute due to getting sick with Covid-19. We might have seen some of those familiar reminders recently that the coronavirus is still around, but could there really be a resurgence of the virus like we experienced during the pandemic years?

According to virologists, the answer seems to be ‘maybe’: since July, the number of people newly infected with Covid-19 has been slowly rising from a very low level.

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), nine people per 100,000 inhabitants became newly infected in Germany last week. A year ago, there were only around 270 reported cases.

Various Corona variants are currently on the loose in the country. According to the RKI,  the EG.5 (also called Eris) and XBB.1.16 lines were each detected in the week ending September 3rd with a share of just under 23 percent. 

The highly mutated variant BA.2.86 (Pirola), which is currently under observation by the World Health Organisation (WHO), also arrived in the country this week, according to RKI. 

High number of unreported case

The RKI epidemiologists also warned about a high number of unreported cases since hardly any testing is done. They pointed out that almost half of all registered sewage treatment plants report an increasing viral load in wastewater tests.

The number of hospital admissions has also increased slightly, but are still a far cry from the occupation rate amid the pandemic. Last week it was two per 100,000 inhabitants. In the intensive care units, only 1.2 percent of all beds are occupied by Covid-19 patients.

Still, a good three-quarters (76.4 percent) of people in Germany have been vaccinated at least twice and thus have basic immunity, reported RKI. 

Since Monday, doctors’ offices have been vaccinating with the adapted vaccine from Biontech/Pfizer, available to anyone over 12 years old, with a vaccine for small children set to be released the following week and one for those between 5 and 11 to come out October 2nd.

But Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has so far only recommended that people over 60 and those with pre-existing conditions get vaccinated.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Who should get a Covid jab this autumn in Germany?

“The pandemic is over, the virus remains,” he said. “We cannot predict the course of coming waves of corona, but it is clear that older people and people with pre-existing conditions remain at higher risk of becoming severely ill from Covid-19”

The RKI also recommended that people with a cold voluntarily wear a mask. Anyone exhibiting cough, cold, sore throat or other symptoms of a respiratory illness should voluntarily stay at home for three to five days and take regular corona self-tests. 

However, further measures such as contact restrictions are not necessary, he said.

One of many diseases

As of this autumn, Covid-19 could be one of many respiratory diseases. As with influenza, there are no longer absolute infection figures for coronavirus.

Saarbrücken pharmacist Thorsten Lehr told German broadcaster ZDF that self-protection through vaccinations, wearing a mask and getting tested when symptoms appear are prerequisites for surviving the Covid autumn well. 

Only a new, more aggressive mutation could completely turn the game around, he added.

On April 7th of this year, Germany removed the last of its over two-year long coronavirus restrictions, including mask-wearing in some public places.

READ ALSO: German doctors recommend Covid-19 self-tests amid new variant