Reader’s question: Who will contact me if there’s a Covid outbreak at a German bar I was at?

Reader’s question: Who will contact me if there's a Covid outbreak at a German bar I was at?
A restaurant in Hanover with Luca check in. Photo: dpa | Hauke-Christian Dittrich
Checking in at public venues via app has become part of daily life in Germany since the start of the pandemic. But what happens if there's a Covid case - or even an outbreak - somewhere you've been?

The short answer is that, if you’ve checked in via app, you should get an automatic notification on your phone when the local health authority pulls up your data – but it all depends on who you’ve had contact with and the severity of the outbreak at the venue.

Thanks to a recent software change in Germany’s most popular check-in app, health authorities now have much more flexibility about when to contact people in case of a positive infection at somewhere like a gym, bar or cinema.

The Luca App was launched earlier this year to simplify contact tracing at restaurants, bars and other events. The app developer has announced a new system for warning people that will come into use in the autumn.

Currently being tested in several German cities, the system updates will stratify the risk of an infection based on the type of location that a user visited.

If you checked into the app at an indoor event where there are likely to have been several infections, the app will classify this as a cluster event. If an infected person was present at the event users will be pinged with a cluster alert and will then be directly contacted by the local health agency.

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On the other hand a positive case at an outdoor event will be given a lower risk-assessment, allowing the health agencies to give more nuanced advice depending on the likelihood that the virus has been spread.

Why has this change been made?

Luca’s developers say that the updates will allow the health agencies to focus limited resources.

“With the new functions, we are opening the next chapter in pandemic response together with the health authorities,” claimed Luca’s CEO, Patrick Hennig.

“Thanks to systematic risk assessment, they can evaluate risks even more quickly, easily and in a more differentiated manner, and inform, warn and contact users,” said Hennig on Thursday.

After being backed to the tune of €20 million by the German states, the privately developed Luca App has become the go-to way for bars and restaurants to check customers into their premises.

That the states paid so much for licences to use the app wasn’t without controversy.

Millions of euros of public money went into a competitor app called the Corona-Warn-App which, since April, has a similar check in function. Data protection analysts say this app is better at protecting the anonymity of users.

Moreover, experts on hacking have condemned the Luca App as insecure. A member of the Chaos Computer Club told der Spiegel this summer that it was an “utter scandal” that the German states had bought licences for the app.

The update is currently being tested at the health offices in Hamburg, Munich,  Stuttgart, and elsewhere.

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


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