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Germany’s Covid warning app to display ‘vaccine passport’ and better check-in functions

Germany’s Corona-Warn-App is set to expand with new features, including a built-in certificate for those who have been vaccinated and a check-in function for private events.

Germany's Covid warning app to display 'vaccine passport' and better check-in functions
The Corona-Warn-App displaying a low risk after an encounter. Photo: DPA

Some of the new features of the ‘Version 2.0’ of the Corona-Warn-App will be available as of Wednesday.

They include a ‘private event’ function, in which users can anonymously check-in through the QR code that the host has set up. 

The location of the event, its duration and the event type are recorded, but not the names and phone numbers of the visitors.

This also differs from coronavirus tracing apps such as Luca or darfichrein.de, which are designed to digitally register people in restaurants, stores or at events, as is required in all 16 German states. In the process, visitors must provide their contact information. 

In future versions – before the summer vacations begin – it will also be possible to display a ‘digital vaccination certificate’, in which users could prove if they’ve been fully vaccinated. 

This could act as a type of “Impfpass” (vaccination passport), allowing holders to more freely travel and engage in public life again. 

READ ALSO: ‘The only way forward’: Should Germany introduce a Covid-19 immunity passport?

It will also be possible to display the results of rapid tests through the app. Around most of Germany, a negative result is currently required for shopping, getting a haircut, or in some states such as Berlin to enter the workplace. 

The Corona-Warn-App was originally launched in June 2020 to let users know if they’ve come in contact with an infected person in their vicinity.

READ ALSO: 11 things to know about Germany’s newly-launched coronavirus tracing app

Picking up in popularity

If the app detects a possible dangerous encounter, it notifies other nearby users but not health authorities themselves. 

Although Germany’s Corona-Warn-App is the most successful digital Covid-19 contact tracking application in Europe, with 27 million downloads to date, its effectiveness has repeatedly come into question. 

Last October, for example, Bavaria’s state premier Markus Söder (CSU) declared the app to be virtually ineffective.

“Unfortunately, the app has been a toothless tiger so far,” Söder said in an interview at the time. “It has hardly any warning effect.”

However, current federal figures show that the app has likely come a long way since its inception. 

READ ALSO: ‘Only problem is that it’s optional’: The verdict on Germany’s coronavirus tracing app

According to these, 79,000 users have warned their contacts about a positive test result in the past four weeks alone. 

On average, a positive report triggers warnings to six other people. Four out of five people who receive a red alert in the app then go on to get tested, with seven percent testing positive for a Covid-19 infection.

Taking these numbers into account, the app has probably warned a total of about 2.5 million people about high-risk encounters with others and ultimately detected 140,000 Covid 19 infections.

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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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