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New German coronavirus tracking app gets over seven million downloads

Germany’s new coronavirus tracking app, which launched on Tuesday, has already received more than seven million downloads, according to Germany’s Health Ministry on Wednesday.

New German coronavirus tracking app gets over seven million downloads
The new coronavirus testing app. Photo: DPA

In the first 24 hours, the app received around 6.4 million downloads, according to Germany's Health Ministry.

The new app, which is only available for download in Germany, is intended to make it easier and quicker to track infections and slow the spread of the virus.

It can measure whether smartphone users have come closer than about two meters to an infected person for over 15 minutes.

If one user has tested positive and voluntarily shared this in the app, it will subsequently notify other users that they should be tested.

After that, the person can receive a test, the costs of which are currently covered by Germany's statutory health insurance – even if that person does not show symptoms.

READ ALSO: Germany to expand coronavirus testing for people without symptoms

According to a poll conducted on Twitter by The Local Germany, 43.6 percent of the 234 respondents said that they would use the App, while another 26.1 percent said that they weren't convinced yet. About a third (30.3 percent) said that they didn't know yet.

In a Facebook poll, however, 70 percent of the 1,400 respondents said that they would be using the app.

Two virologists, two different opinions

Virologist Christian Drosten expects the app to have a “good effect” even if the number of users is relatively low.

The app is a “decisively important tool” to keep the numbers down, he added, on his NDR podcast. After all, speed is the most important factor when searching for contacts of an infected person. And if people first have to be tracked down by calling them (rather than them receiving an alert on the app), important time is lost, he said.

Epidemiologist Alexander Kekulé, on the other hand, fears that the app will lead to many false alarms. For example, the app cannot detect any protective Plexiglas panes or whether contact persons wore a face masks, Kekulé said in the MDR Aktuell podcast. 

READ ALSO: How will Germany's coronavirus tracing app work?

Furthermore, the technology does not register where people meet, for example if it's somewhere outside or in a confined space. “Important dangerous contacts cannot be detected by the app at all,” he said.

The physician from the University of Halle explained that the warning system could “only work properly if we also had information about the location”. 

However, this is not planned in the new version for data protection reasons.

According to Kekulé, the app will not bring any announced relief for the overstretched health authorities, who now are required to follow up on additional reports.

Will the app lead to more people getting tested for the virus?

Thanks to the Corona-Warn-App, doctors expect more inquiries and requests for testing.

“In general, more and more questions on the subject of testing are currently appearing in GP practices – even independently of the app,” said Ulrich Weigeldt, head of the German GP Association, to the Rheinische Post newspaper. 

Patients are still feeling worried about receiving the virus and “this need for information in the family doctor's offices will certainly increase with the app.

“If the patient is warned about the app, he has the option to be tested.”

The family doctors would continue to inform patients by phone in the same way as they have done in the past with possible infected people, said Weigelt. 

This would include medical information on Covid-19 such as symptoms, risks of infection, hygiene measures and information on how the tests work.

The German government said that around €20 million has already gone into developing the app, which was first slated to be released in April. In addition, €2.5 million to €3.5 million per month has been set aside for operating costs, including two telephone hotlines.

As of Wednesday, Germany had a total of 188,523 coronavirus cases, and 173,600 reported recoveries, according to information from Johns Hopkins University. There had been 8,910 deaths.

Vocabulary

tool – (das) Werkzeug

false alarm – (der) Fehlalarm

data/information – (die) Angaben

family doctor/general practitioner – (der) Hausarzt

We're aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

 

 

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COVID-19

Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

High profile German virologist Christian Drosten believes Germany will see a severe spike in Covid infections after summer, and that the pandemic will not become endemic this year.

Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

Drosten previously said that Germany would probably be able to declare the end of the pandemic this year.

But in an interview with Spiegel, Drosten said he had reevaluated his opinion. 

“When the Alpha variant came, it was very surprising for me. When Delta appeared I was sceptical at first, then with Omicron we had to reorient ourselves again. And since January there have already been new Omicron subtypes.

“So I would actually like to correct myself: I no longer believe that by the end of the year we will have the impression that the pandemic is over.”

READ ALSO: End is in sight for pandemic in Germany, says virologist 

Drosten also said that Germany will not see a largely Covid-free summer, which has been the case in previous years, and a further increase in infections in autumn. 

“We are actually already seeing an exponential increase in case numbers again,” Drosten said.

“The BA.5 variant (of Omicron) is simply very transmissible, and people are losing their transmission protection from the last vaccination at the same time.”

In other countries, he said, when the number of cases become high, hospitalisation and death rates also rise again. “Unfortunately, that will also be the case here,” said Drosten, but added: “Overall, however, far fewer people will become seriously ill and die than in 2021.”

Drosten said he expected many more infections from September.

“I hope that the school holidays will dampen the increase in cases somewhat. But from September, I fear we will have very high case numbers,” the head of the virology department at Berlin’s Charité hospital told Spiegel.

READ ALSO: German Health Minister lays out autumn Covid plan

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021.

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

If the government does not take any action, he predicted there would be a lot of sick leave across all industries. “That will become a real problem,” he said.

Drosten said he did not expect overcrowded intensive care units in Germany.

But the new BA.5 sub-variant, which is becoming dominant in Germany, may affect people more strongly. 

“The wheel is turning more towards disease again,” said Drosten. It is not true that a virus automatically becomes more and more harmless in the course of evolution. “That makes me even more worried about the autumn,” he said.

Drosten recommends wearing masks indoors during the colder months, saying it is “the least painful” measure.

If, in addition, “up to 40 million people could be immunised or given a booster vaccination” before winter, for example by urgently calling for company vaccinations, that would “really make a difference”, Drosten said.

In the long term, he said it’s inevitable that people will become infected with coronavirus.

He said the population immunity due to vaccinations and infections will at some point be so strong that the virus will become less important. “Then we will be in an endemic state,” said Drosten. In the worst case, however, this could take “several more winters”.

However, Drosten warned against people trying to deliberately infect themselves with Covid, saying getting the infection in summer doesn’t mean people will be protected in winter. 

Drosten himself said he has not yet contracted Covid-19.

“So far, I guess I’ve just been lucky,” he said. “I rarely put myself in risky situations, but I’m not overly cautious either.”

‘Pandemic depends on behaviour’

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI)’s latest weekly report, more outbreaks are occurring in care homes, and the number of patients in intensive care units is slightly rising as infections go up. 

The institute said there had been a 23 percent increase in the 7-day incidence compared to the previous week. On Friday the 7-day incidence stood at 618.2 infections per 100,000 people. There were 108,190 infections within the latest 24 hour period and 90 deaths. 

“The further course of the pandemic depends not only on the occurrence of new virus variants and the uptake of vaccinations on offer, it also depends to a large extent on the behaviour of the population,” said the RKI.

According to the DIVI intensive care register, the number of Covid-19 patients in ICUs had increased to 810 on Thursday this week, from about 600 at the beginning of the month.

However, that number is still low compared to previous Covid peaks when thousands of people were in intensive care in Germany. 

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