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Contact tracing API: Belgium adopts Apple/Google code


Belgium is the latest country to roll out a coronavirus app using the joint Apple/Google contact tracing API. The app is available from today.

Belgium posed a particular challenge for a contact tracing app …

The country has not one, not two but three official languages: Dutch (often referred to as Flemish within the country), French, and German. Wikipedia explains.

As no census exists, there are no official statistical data regarding the distribution or usage of Belgium’s three official languages or their dialects. However, various criteria, including the language(s) of parents, of education, or the second-language status of foreign born, may provide suggested figures. An estimated 60% of the Belgian population are native speakers of Dutch (often referred to as Flemish), and 40% of the population speaks French natively […] The German-speaking Community is made up of 73,000 people in the east of the Walloon Region.

It was therefore necessary to ensure that the app worked in all languages across the various regions of the country.

NWS reports.

After so many other countries Belgium too is now introducing a corona app that you will be able to download onto your smartphone. The app will work in all three regions of our complex country.

PM Sophie Wilmès (Francophone liberal) announced the arrival of the new corona app Coronalert following last Wednesday’s meeting of the national security council. Belgium’s interfederal Committee Testing & Tracing has confirmed the app has been tested and works: “Technically everything is operational. We just need to keep an eye on communication between patients and their family doctors” an official said.

The app is intended to help prevent the spread of coronavirus and will record who you have been in contact with anonymously. When a doctor prescribes a corona test, the app user can generate a code that is linked to this test. If the test is positive, the app will receive this information and everybody who has been in close contact with the infected person will be alerted.

Earlier this month, England and Wales finally got an app using the Apple/Google API after an earlier disastrous test of a different app which was found to be both ineffective and full of security holes. Scotland and Ireland each already had apps using the API.

The Apple/Google contact tracing API addresses privacy concerns by incorporating eight safeguards. Despite this, however, adoption has been slow in Apple’s home market of the US. Just nine US states currently use it.

Citizen take-up has also been relatively low in many countries, with one recent suggestion that people should be rewarded for using contact tracing apps.

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