Latvia is expected to be one of the first countries to launch a smartphone app using a new toolkit created by Apple and Alphabet’s Google to help trace coronavirus infections.
According to reports in Reuters, attempts to launch tracing apps in a number of countries have not so far been an unqualified success because Apple’s iPhone does not support their approach to using Bluetooth short-range radio as a proxy for measuring the risk of infection.
Well now there’s Apturi Covid (Stop Covid), the Latvian app, based on technology launched last week by Apple and Google, whose iOS and Android operating systems run 99 per cent of the world’s smartphones. However, the app will only work within Latvia to start with. The country, which is in the Baltic region of Northern Europe bordering Lithuania, Estonia, Belarus and Russia, has a population of just under two million people.
Nevertheless, the future could be bright for this new initiative as it aligns Latvia with a group of European countries (the report cites Germany, Switzerland and Estonia) that are working to make it possible for their national apps to communicate with each other across borders.
The result could be a greater incentive to ease travel restrictions in the knowledge that it would not mean triggering a second wave of the pandemic as the app would work when users travel abroad.
Apple and Google announced plans to cooperate in early April, when they said they would release APIs that enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices using apps from public health authorities. These official apps will be available for users to download via their respective app stores.
They added that Apple and Google were working to enable a broader Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform by building this functionality into the underlying platforms. This, they explained, is a more robust solution than an API and would allow more individuals to participate, if they choose to opt in, as well as enable interaction with a broader ecosystem of apps and government health authorities.