MADRID (Reuters) – Spain will trial a new smartphone app aimed at helping to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus on one of the Canary Islands, authorities said on Wednesday.
Europe’s latest scheme using Bluetooth technology to log contacts between people and send a warning if any of them test positive for the virus will start in late June on La Gomera, near tourist hot spot Tenerife.
“The aim is to explore the potential of this mobile tracing application in a real-life scenario,” the archipelago’s government said in a statement, adding the results will be used to decide whether to roll out the app nationwide.
Local authorities have committed to promoting widespread take-up to improve the reliability of the trial’s findings, the statement said. Germany’s national app was downloaded 6.5 million times in the 24 hours after its launch.
Spain follows several countries – led by Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Poland and Latvia – in opting to use Bluetooth short-range radio, rather than risk invading people’s privacy by using location data.
To guard further against intrusion, contacts between users will be stored on individual devices, rather than passing through a central server.
Spain has worked with a standard developed by Apple and Alphabet Inc’s Google – whose systems run a combined 99% of the world’s smartphones – to log them securely.
With some 12% of its economy stemming from tourism, Spain is keen for apps developed by different countries to be able to communicate smoothly with each other.
Home to around 22,000 people, La Gomera is one of the smallest islands in a grouping that is popular with holidaymakers from countries including Germany and Britain.
“La Gomera was chosen because it is a place where the local population and tourists converge,” the statement said.
After a rigid lockdown to stem one of Europe’s worst outbreaks, Spain has reported a steadily slowing infection rate, and this week started a controlled tourism scheme for another sun-soaked island region, around Mallorca.
Reporting by Isla Binnie; editing by Jonathan Oatis