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Italy to use app to track coronavirus contacts

Italy said Friday it will use a mobile application to track the contacts of people who have tested positive for COVID-19.

The app is expected to help the government as it enters phase-2 of the coronavirus emergency once the lockdown is lifted.

It will also alert with a message whoever has come in contact with an infected person, reducing the risk of further spread of the virus.

The app named Immuni has been developed by Milan-based software house Bending Spoons in partnership with Lombardy’s Medical Center Santagostino and marketing company Jakala.

Announcing the move, Special Commissioner for Emergency Domenico Arcuri said the app was given free of cost to the government by the software house.

It will be first tested in some pilot regions – including two Ferrari plants — and then extended to the rest of Italy.

“We hope that our citizens will whole-heartedly support the move to avoid a repetition of the first dramatic phase of the contagion,” Arcuri said.

To be effective, he added, the app has to be used by at least 60% of the Italian population.

Italy is one of the worst-hit countries by the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 22,000 deaths and over 106,000 infections.

Immuni, chosen from among 300 similar apps, is based on Bluetooth technology, according to EU directives.

To protect citizens’ privacy — the key issue in using social tracking apps — the European Commission has imposed a few, clear rules: anonymity, no geo-localization, Bluetooth and voluntariness.

Touching on the effectiveness of using such an app, Luca Foresti, head of the Santagostino Medical Center, said: “This allows to identify and block in the bud the possible development of new clusters. All is absolutely anonymous.”

She said a similar approach has already been used in South Korea, Singapore and China.


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