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223 million euro project: What's next for the Corona warning app?


Fewer and fewer people are using the Corona warning app. But the government is still sticking to the smartphone application. For how much longer? The answers to the most important questions.

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Frank Rumpenhorst / dpa

The mask requirement in buses and trains has fallen.

Isolation is only compulsory in a few federal states, and proof of vaccination has long been a thing of the past within Europe.

But one infection protection measure is still ongoing: the Corona-Warn-App.

Although usage numbers have dropped sharply, the federal government is sticking with the contact-tracing application.

How long will the app stay on?

How many infected people are still warning their fellow human beings?

And what is behind the plans to convert the app to a digital vaccination card?

We have collected the answers to the most important questions about the Corona-Warn-App.

How many people are still using the app?

48 million people have downloaded the app so far.

According to a survey, the app was still very popular in the autumn wave.

According to the Bitkom industry association, 37 percent of all Germans were still using the app in October to inform others about an infection – or to be warned themselves.

Since the start in June 2020, around twelve million people have reported a positive corona test via the Corona warning app.

Around 2,500 people who have officially tested positive are currently reporting an infection via the Corona warning app every day.

Compared to the high phase of the omicron wave a year ago, this is a fairly low value.

At that time, more than 90,000 infected people sent red tiles to possible contacts every day.

Since then, the warning messages have flattened out in line with the decreasing incidence waves.

However, the number of unreported cases is likely to be significant.

Because home tests were not recorded by the app until recently.

My rapid test is positive.

Can I warn those around me without a PCR test?


This has been going on for about two weeks. It has never been easier to report an infection.

The government is now relying on the personal responsibility of app users.

With the current update for iOS and Android, a positive self-test is sufficient to send a warning message.

An officially confirmed rapid or PCR test is no longer necessary.

To prevent misuse, only one alarm is allowed every three months.

According to Anke Domscheit-Berg, this function comes at least half a year too late.

Since June, the left-wing group's network policy spokeswoman has not been shown a red tile because PCR tests are hardly available anymore and the incidence figures therefore have nothing to do with reality.

"That was a fatal message," says the digital expert in an interview with SPIEGEL.

"Although so many people fell ill with Corona over Christmas, the green tile signaled that everything was fine."

Has the warning app served its purpose?

In Berlin, all parties agree that the Corona warning app is a successful model.

Matthias Mieves, spokesman for health digitization at the SPD, says in an interview with SPIEGEL: "The money was well invested."

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A large part of the population actively used the app.

Many warnings and voluntary data donations have been made.

»That helped us a lot in that fewer people got sick.«

Anke Domscheit-Berg takes a similar view.

"The app has saved many lives," says the IT expert.

"It was an exemplary and open development process that should become the standard." The app was completed quickly and the functions were implemented well.

Numerous experts and CDU politicians also give the app good marks.

How much did that cost?

The total costs of the project amount to around 223 million euros.

A total of 23 million euros is planned for the first five months of this year just for development, updates, server costs and the hotline that was discontinued at the end of January.

Is that a lot of money for an app?


Countries like Australia got away much cheaper.

The government there spent a total of around 14 million euros on the contact tracing app – with running costs of around 50,000 euros per month.

However, the app was hardly used and was discontinued in the summer.

Great Britain paid around 40 million euros in the first year, including a non-compliant app that had to be completely redeveloped.

According to Domscheit-Berg, the German app could have been developed and operated for half the price.

"Companies took advantage of the emergency and enriched themselves from it," says the IT specialist.

How long should the app be used?

That is unclear.

The contracts with the project partners officially run until May 31st.

However, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach apparently does not want to say goodbye to the app completely in order to be prepared for possible new waves.

Telekom and SAP are not officially allowed to comment on the app.

All information goes through the Ministry of Health.

However, it is said from Telekom circles that the app is too good to mothball it.

Instead, there are talks with the government to turn it into a federal warning app or a smartphone version of the digital patient file.

SAP, on the other hand, can imagine integrating a digital vaccination card into the app.

Should the warning app be pimped into a vaccination card?

The taxpayers' association is skeptical.

"The project should not be continued until it is clear which problem is to be solved with the app in the future and why the app is the most economical solution," said BDS President Reiner Holznagel on request.

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Politically, Karl Lauterbach is pretty much alone with the plans.

There has even been criticism from within their own ranks.

“We are out of the pandemic phase,” says SPD member of the Bundestag Matthias Mieves.

"The Corona-Warn-App has fulfilled its mission." You have to keep the promise that the app will not be misused.

The digital vaccination card belongs in the digital patient file, which is currently being promoted - and not in the Corona warning app.

Anke Domscheit-Berg becomes even clearer.

“Karl Lauterbach wants to turn the Corona warning app into a jack of all trades,” says the member of the Bundestag.

That doesn't work.

"I can't conjure up an airplane out of an e-car either." The Minister of Health did not understand "that the infrastructure for digital healthcare is missing".

Even the best app cannot solve this problem.

Should the Corona warning app run in standby mode for emergencies?

SPD politician Matthias Mieves suggests switching off the app's infrastructure completely.

That is the expensive part that is no longer needed for the time being.

»The code is still there and can be used again in the future.« Instead, Anke Domscheit-Berg recommends letting the app continue to simmer on a low flame.

"The warning app should be put into hibernation, but continue to be maintained." The application must be available within a few days.

That might cost a few tens of thousands of euros a year, »but not several millions«.

I want to delete the app.

What do I have to do so that the health authorities, SAP and Telekom no longer have any data from me?

The Corona app sends warning messages pseudonymously.

That means nobody can read from the data who used the app.

The smartphone constantly sends digital identification tags to devices in the area.

But these Bluetooth IDs are not linked to a name or address and change every 15 minutes.

The tokens are derived from an encrypted key that is exchanged daily.

So there is no profile at all that could be deleted.

It is therefore sufficient to delete the app from the smartphone to eliminate all traces.

What happens if I uninstall the app?

The contact tracing immediately comes to nothing.

The app no ​​longer collects digital keys from nearby devices.

If you delete the app, you will no longer receive a red tile if infected people were nearby, and you can no longer alert anyone via the app if you get Covid-19 yourself.

The voluntary diary entries will also be deleted.

Source: spiegel

All tech articles on 2023-02-04

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