Japan's COVID-19 contact-tracing app relaunched after glitches forced shutdown

Xinhua
Japan's health ministry on Friday resumed its coronavirus contact-tracing app service after it was forced to be shut down due to glitches just days after it was launched.
Xinhua

Japan's health ministry on Friday resumed its coronavirus contact-tracing app service after it was forced to be shut down due to glitches just days after it was launched.

The resumption of the free smartphone app, which was launched on June 19 only to be shut down four days later, comes as the number of COVID-19 cases in Tokyo reached a fresh two-month high at 124, topping the 100-mark for a second straight day and remaining above 50 for an eighth straight day.

The health ministry said that the glitches have now been fixed and is urging people to download the newly-updated version of the app.

The app logged 5 million downloads after its relaunch, the ministry said.

One of the bugs that forced the app to be shut down involved it allowing erroneous numbers not issued by public healthcare facilities to be accepted and registered.

Another defect in the app was related to the wrong download date being issued.

The app, when working, is supposed to record situations using Bluetooth and encrypted technology when people come into contact with each other at less than one meter apart for fifteen minutes or more.

If a person tests positive for the virus, those who have come into close proximity with the individual will be notified.

The health ministry has assured potential users that the app does not store private data such as user's names, addresses, phone numbers or location, among other details, a point of concern for would-be users.

The app has been designed to delete all contact data 14 days after it is recorded, the health ministry has said.

The government, while not specifying its target percentage of the population using the app, is hoping for its wide adoption by the public, as its efficacy is directly related to the number of people using it.

Similar apps launched overseas require at least 60 percent of the population to be using it for it to be practical, researchers and experts have said.

The launch of the app, which was based on technology developed by Apple Inc. and Google LLC, was initially delayed by more than a month before the latest glitches forced it to be temporarily shut down.

This was due to the health ministry opting to take over following the tech giants involved imposing too many usage conditions.

The delayed launch coincided with Japan completely lifting its coronavirus-induced travel restrictions on June 19, while its relaunch Friday comes as Tokyo's COVID-19 cases surged to a fresh two-month high.  

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