POLITICS & INSTITUTIONS - ECONOMY

Contact tracing: Lux to draft legal framework



In India, central government officials were today directed to immediately download the Aarogya Setu App, pictured, on their mobile phones, to track their risk level Shutterstock

In India, central government officials were today directed to immediately download the Aarogya Setu App, pictured, on their mobile phones, to track their risk level Shutterstock

Contact tracing apps are used to detect and inform people when they have come into contact with a person who has tested positive for covid-19.

While Luxembourg prime minister Xavier Bettel (DP) said in a parliamentary debate on Tuesday that he preferred manual contact tracing, relying on a person’s memory and physically notifying those a patient had contact with, he recognised it was not a view shared by all governments and even members of the scientific community are advocating for such apps.

“If tomorrow downloading an application on a smartphone were to become a sort of ‘entry ticket’ for travelling abroad, Xavier Bettel does not want to be caught offguard,” parliament wrote in a summary of discussions published on its site.

Bettel pointed out that Germany had closed its borders unilaterally overnight, adding that by the time legal action is taken against a country imposing a legally dubious measure, the crisis would be over.

The legal framework will be drawn up by justice minister Sam Tanson (déi Gréng). Its aim will be to ensure Luxembourg citizens are not prevented from travelling.

Bettel is scheduled to attend a video conference of EU telecommunications ministers on 5 May when he expected the issue to be discussed further.

In any event, to be effective, a contact tracing application would need an adoption rate of around 60% of the population, Bettel added.

In previous press briefings, Bettel said he would consider adopting a contact tracing app as part of a European-wide initiative.

Existing apps and those under development

Contact tracing apps are commonly used in some southeast Asian countries. Singapore’s government is encouraging people to install TraceTogether, which uses Bluetooth. Once an individual tests positive for the virus, they can choose to allow the health ministry access to the data in the app and help identify close contacts. 

In Hong Kong, the StayHomeSafe app is used with a wristband set to catch overseas arrivals who breach the 14-day quarantine.

South Korea has several, the most popular being Corona 100m, which collects data from public government sources and alerts uses of a diagnosed covid-19 patient within 100metres.

At the beginning of April, scientists and developers launched The Pan-European Privacy Preserving Proximity Tracing (PEPP-PT) in which researchers from eight countries are developing applications that can support contact tracing efforts within countries and across borders, using Bluetooth.