eHealth : Digital health and care

eHealth and COVID-19

Applications can help reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus and support the gradual lifting of confinement measures, by informing citizens if they have been in proximity of persons infected by the virus, and encouraging them to inform their health authorities and to ask support. The European Commission and the Member States have defined a common approach for efficient contact tracing apps.

EU Member States, supported by the Commission, adopted an EU toolbox on 16 April 2020 to use mobile applications for privacy-preserving contact tracing and warning in response to the coronavirus pandemic. On 13 May 2020 the EU Members States, with the support of the European Commission, adopted interoperability guidelines for approved contact tracing mobile applications in the EU. Contact tracing apps are voluntarily installed by citizens and are based on Bluetooth proximity technology that does not enable tracking of people’s locations. These apps alert people who have been in proximity to an infected person for a certain duration, so that they can take necessary actions to protect themselves and the people around them, for example, by self-isolating and getting tested. This way infection transmission can be interrupted rapidly.

A key principle of the guidelines is that users should be able to rely on a single app wherever they are in the EU at a certain moment, based on the interoperability between these apps and between the countries. App users’ privacy and data must be safeguarded. The national authorities will deactivate the apps at the end of the pandemic, and users are free to uninstall it at any time.

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