HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finland's health authorities on Monday launched the country's own and long-waited contact tracing smartphone app to combat the spread of COVID-19.
"Everyone of us can start using it while it's fully voluntary ... and fully data secured. With it we can protect ourselves and our closest ones," Kirsi Varhila, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health told a news conference.
Varhila said the application, based on Bluetooth technology, would not reveal anyone's identity to other users but it would help trace unknown contacts that have remained long enough nearby a person who later tests positive for COVID-19.
Varhila said a second phase in the app's development would follow, in order to make it compatible with similar apps in use in other European Union member countries.
In order to respect privacy, a user who gets a positive COVID-19 test result can choose whether or not they send an exposure alert to their earlier contacts and those who receive the alert will not know who the alert is coming from or where and when the exposure took place, the ministry said.
Users who receive an alert for exposure will not be revealed to authorities but should rather contact healthcare officials in order to get tested for COVID-19, it said.
The app, called "Corona Blinker" in Finnish, was developed by a private Finnish software company Solita, after it won a public bidding contest in June.
(Reporting by Anne Kauranen; editing by David Evans)