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Switzerland to launch COVID-19 tracing app

Switzerland to launch COVID-19 tracing app

FILE PHOTO: An employee of Zurich?s public transport operator Verkehrsbetriebe Zuerich (VBZ) hands out protective face masks to passengers, as a measure against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at a tram stop at Bellevue square in Zurich, Switzerland May 19, 2020. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

GENEVA: Switzerland's COVID-19 contact-tracing app will roll out to the public on Thursday (Jun 25), the government said, urging everyone to download it on their smartphones.

The free SwissCovid application uses Bluetooth wireless technology to register other phones that come within two metres for around 15 minutes or so.

It then alerts people who may unwittingly have been in prolonged proximity with someone who later tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

"We want to stem the uncontrolled spread of the new coronavirus," the government said on Wednesday in a statement.

"The more people use the app, the better we can achieve this goal."

The app is optional and no personal data or location information is used.

Anyone who tests positive for the virus is given a code by the regional health services to enter into the app.

READ: EU travel recommendations may impede Americans and Russians

Other app users who spent time in close proximity are anonymously informed, told which day the contact happened on, and are given information on what to do next.

The app was originally road-tested by army conscripts.

READ: Commentary: Manual contact tracing still the gold standard for COVID-19 response

EASING RESTRICTIONS

Some 1,681 people have died in Switzerland out of nearly 31,300 who have tested positive for the virus in a country of 8.5 million people.

However, infection, hospitalisation and death rates having been low and stable for some weeks.

Switzerland stopped short of imposing strict confinement when it introduced measures in mid-March aimed at stopping the spread of the new coronavirus.

It began gradually easing its restrictions on Apr 27, with a fourth stage on Monday lifting the maximum limit on gatherings to 1,000.

"Even if the Federal Council continues to ease the measures, the coronavirus crisis is not yet behind us. Sustained efforts are needed to prevent the infection rate from rising again," the government said.

READ: Europe pins hopes on smarter COVID-19 contact tracing apps

The government also announced that COVID-19 tests would be free for everyone from Thursday, covering the 169 Swiss franc (US$178) cost of an infection test.

"The risk was therefore that some people would give up testing if they had to pay for it," it said.

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Source: AFP/aa

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