Corona warning app in “sleep mode”: what did it bring?

Corona warning app in “sleep mode”: what did it bring?

She was a constant companion during the pandemic – now the Corona Warn app is switched to “sleep mode”. How helpful was she? Time for a balance sheet.

In the first months of the corona pandemic more than three years ago, there were no vaccines. Above all, experts advised concerned citizens to protect themselves with masks. The federal government and the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) also have high hopes for the Corona warning app, which was published on June 16, 2020 in the Apple and Google stores. Almost three years later, the federal government’s official Corona warning app was put into “sleep mode” on June 1 and was therefore practically useless. Time for a balance sheet:

How did the Corona warning app work?

The app used Bluetooth signals to determine which smartphones were close to each other. If users tested positive for Corona, they could share the test result in the app so that other users who were in their vicinity would be warned with the famous “red tile”. The aim was to stop the chain of infection as quickly as possible by having those warned react quickly. They should then get themselves tested and then isolate themselves if necessary.

Why wasn’t the GPS positioning system used?

At the beginning of the debate, it was actually considered whether classic location information such as GPS should not be evaluated. However, this would not have made it possible to record a risky encounter with pinpoint accuracy. In addition, data protection officials warned that this would have created sensitive location profiles.

“The Corona-Warn-App has shown how contact tracing can be successfully implemented anonymously, securely and without mass surveillance,” says Linus Neumann, spokesman for the Chaos Computer Club (CCC), in retrospect. “Mass surveillance wouldn’t have made the app any more effective. On the contrary, it simply wouldn’t have been installed.”

How many people in Germany actively used the app?

There are only binding figures for downloads, namely almost 48.7 million. Since a number of users have installed the app several times after changing their mobile phone, for example, or some have deactivated the app again, the number of active users is lower. According to RKI estimates, it should have been around 33 million at peak times. This value is very high in an international comparison. However, the federal government had hoped that up to 60 percent of the population would use the app, i.e. around 50 million.

What contribution has the app played in fighting the pandemic?

A comprehensive scientific assessment of this issue is still pending. But some numbers are already certain: around nine million people have shared their test results via the Corona-Warn-App. PCR test results were sent to the app more than 60 million times, and rapid antigen test results were sent to users via the app more than 180 million times.

What has the app done beyond the pandemic?

According to experts, the ecosystem of the app has made a significant contribution to the digitization of the healthcare system in Germany, for example in the health authorities or the test laboratories. What was also new was that a large open source code project was developed. “The Corona warning app was more than just a pandemic app,” says Bundestag member Anke Domscheit-Berg (left).

“It was a great example of a new way of developing public sector software: as open source and in a really open process, together with competent civil society. This was the only way it could become the world’s most successful Corona app.” However, Domscheit-Berg complains that the change did not last. Neither the old nor the new federal government has ever repeated this progressive approach in any other software project.

How expensive was the app?

The final invoice is also pending. However, the costs are likely to be over 220 million euros, significantly more than originally planned. The funds flowed primarily to the software group SAP and Deutsche Telekom (T-Systems) for the development and maintenance of the app and the operation of a call center for users.

Whether this effort was worth it is disputed. Andrew Ullmann, health policy spokesman for the FDP parliamentary group, says: “The Corona warning app was not the game changer of the pandemic. So far, no one can say exactly how many diseases it prevented.” But the app also made a contribution. “Above all, she indicated what can be done in the field of digitization in healthcare if you have the will and the means to do it. In the end, however, we also have to ask ourselves whether the costs were proportionate. Here I am no final opinion formed yet.”

For SAP Technical Director Jürgen Müller, on the other hand, it is clear that the app, together with other tools, has made a significant contribution to people in Germany “overcoming the pandemic together”. “For me (the Corona-Warn-App) is further proof that technology benefits everyone,” Müller wrote on the LinkedIn network.

Why is the app now going into “sleep mode”?

Federal Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach (SPD) explained that active continued operation made no sense “given the low incidence that we currently have”. In addition, there is a high level of population immunity, so that the disease is no longer as severe. However, the minister appeals to users not to delete the app from their smartphones. “It may very well be that we have to use them again for Covid. But it may also be that we develop them further for other infectious diseases.”

What new dangers are there?

From the point of view of the World Health Organization (WHO), the fact that a new pandemic is imminent is not only a question of time, but also of preparation. The UN health authority in Geneva is therefore keeping a close eye on a number of diseases that either have the greatest potential for epidemics or even pandemics or for which adequate precautions have not yet been taken. These include well-known names such as Ebola, Zika, Covid-19 and Lassa fever, as well as the respiratory diseases MERS-CoV and SARS. Also: Crimean-Congo fever and Rift Valley fever, which can cause bleeding, and the Nipah virus, which causes meningitis. At the bottom of the list is the ominous entry “Disease X”. This means a disease that has not yet been observed in humans and is therefore not yet known as a pandemic candidate. According to the WHO, 60 percent of all new infectious diseases are transmitted from animals to humans.

Source: Stern

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