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How the COVID Tracker app works


COVID Tracker is a free app for your mobile phone. It will help us to protect each other and slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). The COVID Tracker app uses a number of technologies to help to speed up contact tracing in Ireland.

If you use the app you will:

  • be told if you have been in close contact with another app user who has tested positive for coronavirus
  • be able to track any symptoms you have and get advice on what to do
  • be able to anonymously warn close contacts if you test positive for coronavirus
  • make contact tracing quicker for the health service
  • help map and predict the spread of the virus

See what a close contact alert looks like

Why use the COVID Tracker app

Contact tracing

Contact tracing finds people who may be at risk from coronavirus because they were in close contact with someone who has the virus. They can then be alerted and advised on what action to take to protect themselves and others.

How it works

The app is part of our contact tracing operation. It uses Bluetooth and anonymous IDs to log:

  • any phone you are in close contact with that also has the app
  • the distance between your phone and another app users' phone
  • the length of time your phone is near another app users' phone

Every 2 hours the app downloads a list of anonymous IDs. These have been shared with the HSE by other people using the app who have tested positive for coronavirus.

If you have been closer than 2 metres for more than 15 minutes with any of these phones you'll get an alert that you are a close contact.

The app does this work in the background. This means you can use your phone as normal.

What a close contact alert looks like

If the app finds that you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus, you will get an alert. The alert will appear in 2 places. This is to make sure you see it.

  1. The alert will appear as a notification on your phone's home screen.
    This is what the alert notification on your phone looks like
    This is what the alert notification on your phone looks like

    This notification will say: ‘Close Contact Alert: Please check the COVID Tracker app now’. It may disappear from your phone after a period of time if your phone thinks you have seen it.

  2. The alert will also pop up within the app.

    This is to make sure that if you miss the notification on your phone, you can still see it in the app. This alert will not disappear. It will remain within the app on your phone.

    The alert will also pop up within the app
    This is what the alert notification will look like when you open the COVID Tracker app.
  3. This alert will be within a red box and say: ‘Close Contact Alert: The app has detected that you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19’.

Check for alert when you open the app

If you are unsure if you received an alert or think you may have missed a notification, open the app and check for an alert.

If there is an alert when you open the app, you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. You will get a phone call from our contact tracing team if you have opted to share your phone number with the app. Our contact tracing team will advise you on what to do next.

If you have not shared your phone number with the app, call HSELive on1850 24 1850.They will take your details so our contact tracing team can call you.

If there is no alert when you open the app, you do not need to worry.

Bluetooth

You'll be asked to give the app permission to use Bluetooth on your phone. Bluetooth needs to remain on for contact tracing to work.

The app uses Bluetooth low energy (LE) to estimate the distance and time between app users. It has been designed to make the best use of this technology.

It will be able to accurately tell if you have spent 15 minutes or longer near someone who tested positive for the virus. Most of the time it will also give an accurate estimate of the distance between you and this other app user. But it's not perfect. No method of contact tracing is 100% perfect.

That’s why we use two methods of contact tracing - our contact tracing team and the COVID Tracker app. This will improve contact tracing, help slow the spread of the virus, and protect you and others.

Anonymous IDs

The app uses the Exposure Notification System (ENS) developed by Apple and Google. This allows phones to share anonymous IDs using Bluetooth. These IDs contain information about how close you were to another app user and how long you were close to them.

The anonymous IDs are codes made up of letters and numbers. You never see them. They cannot be used to identify users or their phones.

Using an anonymous ID means any information is collected anonymously. No one will ever know your personal details unless you choose to share them. This includes the HSE.

No one will know:

  • your name
  • who you met
  • what locations you were in
  • who tested positive for coronavirus

Read more about privacy and how we use your data

COVID Tracker mobile app showing the welcome screen users see when they open the app, after the initial load screen

COVID Check-in function

How it works

When you click on the check-in button in the app you'll see two options you can choose from:

  • 'I'm good, no symptoms'.
  • 'I'm not feeling well today'.

Choosing ‘I’m good, no symptoms’ completes your daily check-in.

If you choose ‘I’m not feeling well today’, you’ll be asked to answer 4 questions about the common symptoms:

  • fever
  • breathing
  • coughing
  • lost or changed sense of taste or smell

The app will give you some advice based on your symptoms. In some cases, the advice will depend on your age.

The app will keep a record of your daily check-ins for 28 days so that you can review them. It is useful to have a record if you are talking to your doctor or test positive for coronavirus.

Optional information sharing

When you first use the COVID Check-In to record how you are feeling you'll have the option to share:

  • the county or town you live in
  • the age group you are in
  • your sex

We will not ask for precise details about your age or where you live. You can choose to share the information or not.

Read more about how we use this data

Installation and use

  1. Download the free app from your usual app store.
  2. Choose what information you want to share, or not.
  3. Use your phone and other apps as normal - the app does its work in the background

You should be able to use the app if your phone:

  • is less than 5 years old
  • uses Apple's iOS 13.5 or higher or Google's Android 6.0 or higher

You will need to declare you are 16 or older. This is the digital age of consent.

Mobile data use

The app uses about 1MB of data per week. This is about the same amount of data you would use for 6 minutes browsing the internet.

Read about privacy and how we use your data

Battery life

Using the app shouldn’t make a difference to your phone's battery life. The app uses Bluetooth Low Energy. This is the same technology used by smartwatches or wireless earphones. It's designed to be energy efficient.

Download the app today

  1. Download the app from your usual app store.
  2. Choose what information you want to share - or not.
  3. Play your part in slowing the spread of coronavirus and helping to protect each other.
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