HSE's Covid-19 contact tracing app field testing to begin next week

Field testing of a Covid-19 contact-tracing app is due to begin in Ireland next week, the HSE said.

The app is designed to maximise privacy and value for public health, the health service added.

The software will operate on a voluntary and opt-in basis and will help track down those in close contact with positive cases of the disease.

A HSE statement said: “The app is being prepared for field testing which is due to commence next week.

“This will validate the use of Exposure Notification Service (ENS) to trace close contacts.

“The Exposure Notification Service (ENS) has been developed by Apple and Google.”

The app will be launched once it is fully operational and the necessary approvals have been received from the Data Protection Commissioner, health experts from the National Public Health Emergency Team, HSE and the Government.

The HSE added: “The Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) will be submitted to the Data Protection Commissioner and will be made available along with the technical documents and source code before the launch of the app.”

The HSE’s app will operate through a voluntary and decentralised tracking system.

The British government’s app uses a centralised model, with data stored and analysed on a central server.

Northern Ireland’s contact tracing is being carried out exclusively by telephone.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Stormont Health Minister Robin Swann (David Young/PA)</figcaption>
Stormont Health Minister Robin Swann (David Young/PA)

Stormont Health Minister Robin Swann has said officials are still considering which app will be the best fit.

He has said a Northern Ireland version may be necessary to ensure it worked with the one being developed in the Republic.

Over seven days, from May 19-25, 212 cases were contact traced, about 30 per day, by 99 health and social care staff who have been redeployed in Northern Ireland.

A contact-tracing programme, aimed to identify and alert people who have come into contact with a person infected with coronavirus, was piloted in Northern Ireland from April 27 before being fully rolled out earlier in May.