Robert Koch Institute introduces app to track coronavirus spread

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the government’s central research institute for disease control, said that it has introduced an app that provides information on the spread of the coronavirus in Germany. The Robert Koch Institute developed the app in cooperation with e-health company Thryve and the Federal Data Protection Officer.
The app is available under the name “Corona data donation”, or Corona-Datenspende in German, for iOS and Android devices. It works in combination with fitness wristbands and smartwatches made by different manufacturers.

The Corona-Datenspende (Corona Data Donation) app gathers vital signs from volunteers wearing smartwatches or fitness trackers – including pulse, temperature and sleep – to analyse whether they are symptomatic of the flu-like illness.

Results will be represented in an interactive online map that would make it possible – together with other data inputs – for the health authorities and the general public to assess the prevalence of infections down to postcode level.

“If the sample is big enough to capture enough symptomatic patients, that would help us to draw conclusions on how infections are spreading and whether containment measures are working,” said Lothar Wieler, head of the Robert Koch Institute that is coordinating Germany’s coronavirus response.

Germany has the fourth highest COVID-19 caseload behind the United States, Spain and Italy at nearly 100,000 but has kept fatalities down to a relatively low 1,600 thanks to early and extensive testing.

The German authorities have been more cautious than some Asian countries in using digital technology to fight the coronavirus, restrained by Europe’s strict data privacy laws and mindful of public scepticism towards any surveillance reminiscent of Nazi- or communist-era rule.

Shortly after launching the app on Tuesday, the RKI announced on twitter that “due to the large number of accesses, we are experiencing technical difficulties.”

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