More than 800 close contact alerts have been recorded through Ireland’s Covid Tracker app, despite hundreds of thousands deleting it because of a technology glitch.
he HSE says that the app is “working well” and is currently growing at 1,500 users per day, with an installation base of 1.2m in Ireland.
However, the health body admits that a serious IT problem caused a wave of mass deletions earlier this month, a time when over 1.5m people had downloaded it.
“When we had the battery issue on Android phones earlier in August a significant number of people who experienced the problem uninstalled the app,” a HSE spokeswoman told Independent.ie. “Those issues were fixed quickly and many of these users have now returned. The app is working well and we have now recorded over 800 close contact alerts.”
The spokeswoman did not say exactly how many people deleted the app or whether it expected everyone who had first downloaded it to re-download it.
“As with any app some people will delete it and reinstall it and some people will choose not to,” the spokeswoman said. “The app is currently installed on just over 1.2 million devices. We are now seeing a steady net daily growth of about 1,500 people per day. With the exception of the [IT glitch] around the 10th August, the data available from the app stores indicate that the number of users choosing to uninstall the app is in-line with other similar apps.”
The spokeswoman said that the new version of the app removes the number of registrations shown “as this does not reflect the number of active unique users”. Instead, “we will replace it with a more useful and meaningful metric which will show the number of people that are currently actively using the app to protect themselves and other people”.
The IT glitch, which only affected Android smartphones, caused overheating and severe battery drainage. The glitch lasted two to three days, within which a “significant” number of people deleted the app to see if the problem could be fixed, which it was after 72 hours.
Despite the glitch, a quarter of the Irish population now have it on their phones, a higher ratio than almost anywhere else in the world.
However, the population penetration is being held back by the government decision not to allow those under 16 to download it based on a controversial interpretation of the recently-introduced digital age of consent. By contrast, in Northern Ireland, authorities are preparing to let under-16s download it as the school term gets underway.
A small number of people refuse to use the app, citing fears that the app may be capable of logging details related to a person’s location. Although researchers from Trinity College Dublin have said that this might be possible, the government, Google and Apple claim that the app cannot record any location details.
Abroad, Ireland’s Covid Tracker app is seen as a success, with the company that created it, Waterford-based Nearform, hired to launch similar versions in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Gibraltar and Pennsylvania.