Glitch leads to Germany’s coronavirus tracing app ‘not working for millions’

Users of Germany's pioneering corona warning app on Android operating systems often did not receive notifications due to a design failure, Bild newspaper reports.

Glitch leads to Germany's coronavirus tracing app 'not working for millions'
Photo: DPA

Millions of users of Samsung or Huawei smart phones were warned too late or not at all about possible contact with a coronavirus positive person, the newspaper reported.

This was due to the fact that their Android operating systems automatically stopped the app's necessary constant background updating as long as it was not open.

READ ALSO: 'The only problem is that it's optional': The verdict on Germany's coronavirus tracing app

A spokesperson for the software company SAP, which co-developed the app, told Bild: “There was indeed a problem with earlier versions of the app in terms of background updates on Android devices.”

But the Health Ministry pushed backed against the tabloid's claim that it had “embarrassed itself.”

A spokesperson insisted that the app had worked “at all times” but that certain Android devices prevented all apps from running permanently in the background.

“This applies not only to the Corona Alert app, but to all apps on those smartphones.”

The ministry said that the problem had been known for a long time and had been pointed out in the app's FAQ section.

With the new version, released on Wednesday, “the problem has been solved,” the spokesperson said.

Users are now instructed upon opening the app to go to settings and activate the “prioritised background activity” option.

Professor Hannes Federrath, President of the German Informatics Society, told Bild that the glitch could be “dangerous to the health” of users. He added that blame ultimately lay with the smartphone manufacturers.

The app, which works through bluetooth, is designed to make it easier to track infections.

If a user has tested positive and has shared this in the app, it reports to other users that they have spent time near an infected person. Then that person can be tested – even without symptoms, and at the expense of health insurance companies.

MUST READ: Germany's tracing app is 'big step' in fight against coronavirus

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

Due to high Covid infection numbers throughout the summer, it’s now possible to get a sick note from a doctor over the phone again for some illnesses. Here’s what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

What’s happened?

In spring 2020, German authorities changed the law so that people with a mild upper respiratory tract illness, such as the common cold, were able to get an incapacity to work certificate or AU-Bescheinigung by simply calling and speaking to their GP.

The rule was extended several times and finally reversed on June 1st this year due to falling infection figures. Since then people have had to go back to the practice – or do a video call if the doctor’s office has that system in place – to get a sick note.

Now, due to a decision by the Joint Federal Committee, the regulation has been reintroduced and patients can call their GP again for a sick note.

Can I get a sick note over the phone for any illness?

No. As before, the regulation only applies to patients suffering from a mild upper respiratory tract illness. Though Covid has not explicitly been named in the announcement, it seems that it is intended to be covered by the regulation.

If the doctor is convinced that the patient is unfit for work after a telephone consultation, then they can issue a sick note for up to seven days.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The changes around doctor’s notes in Germany you should know

If the symptoms persist after seven days, the certificate can be extended once more for another week.

Why now?

According to the Chairman of the G-BA, Josef Hecken, the regulation has been introduced now as a response to rising Covid numbers and in anticipation of the cold and flu season in the coming months: “We want to avoid full waiting rooms in doctors’ offices and the emergence of new infection chains,” he said.

The telephone sick leave rule is a simple, proven and uniform nationwide solution for that, he said. The rule is also necessary because video consultation hours are not yet available everywhere.

What else should I know?

The health insurer DAK is calling for telephone sick leave in the case of light respiratory diseases to be made possible on a permanent basis in Germany. DAK’s CEO Andreas Storm said that this should “not always be up for debate, because it has proven itself.” 

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about making a doctor’s appointment in Germany

The social association VdK also welcomed the reintroduction of the rule. The VdK’s President Verena Bentele said that the regulation would help to protect high-risk groups in particular from potential infections.

What are the rules to know about sick notes in Germany?

Germany has a strict system in place. If you are sick, you need to give your employer a Krankmeldung (notification of sickness) before the start of work on the first day (of your illness).

However, you also need to hand in a Krankschreibung (doctor’s note) on the fourth day of your illness. Some employments contracts, however, require you to submit a sick not earlier than the fourth day so check with your boss or HR on that point.