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Android helps to contain the coronavirus spread. But only in Israel

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A prime minister announcing the launch of a new app is not something you expect to see every day. CoronApp had the honor of being introduced by Benjamin Netanyahu himself, as part of a package of measures that Israel is going to implement to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

He explained that the Israeli authorities are now going to use intelligence tracking tools to digitally monitor COVID-19 patients through their smartphones. Sounds too science-fiction-like to you? Get the Sugarhouse promo code to play online casino, if the psychological stress of this uncommon situation is too much for you. Or brace yourself for this brave new world and keep reading: the Israelis might actually be onto something very useful.

The point of CoronApp is to help with the tracing of contacts of infected people, one of the most essential measures of containment of an epidemic, as explained by the World Health Organization. WHO has been insisting since Jan 2020 on testing and tracing of contacts, and is still doing so in its daily briefs.

As for the Israeli Health Ministry, since the beginning of March, they have been offering on their website a virtual map, constantly updated with the new coronavirus cases reported in the country. The movements of the infected people on the relevant days are mapped, listing stores and sites visited by them, as well as flights taken.

The hypothesis of using technology this way is amply debated across the planet in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The potential to harness contagion this way is appealing, but it raises ethical concerns on the other side. Israel has chosen the pragmatic approach and made CoronApp available on both Android-operated smartphones and iPhones.

The application is meant to provide users with direct information about the virus and share relevant advice for those in self-quarantine. “Digital tools are an integral part of the ability to cope with the outbreak of the virus in Israel,” Esti Shelly, digital health manager at the ministry declared. “We are working to collaborate with the strong ecosystem of digital healthcare companies that exists in Israel.”

Another app, called “Track Virus”, that notifies users if they have been in the proximity of an infected patient, was launched on March 14th by the United Hatzalah EMS organization. The app keeps track of the users’ movements from the moment it is downloaded, and can notify them if they come in contact with someone diagnosed with the virus, pulling data on patients registered by the Health Ministry.

The information is stored in the app anonymously and not shared in the cloud system, to protect users’ privacy. “Track Virus” is available on Google Play Store and will soon be released on the App Store. The Health Ministry is also resorting to chat applications.

A group on Telegram was set up to provide updates about the situation and now has more than 93,000 users. A similar group was also launched on WhatsApp, one of the most popular apps in Israel.

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