Finland’s coronavirus track and trace app is available for download to mobile devices from Monday.
The ‘Corona Flash’ app – called Koronavilkku in Finnish – is completely anonymous and entirely voluntary to use, can help public health officials know how coronavirus is spreading around the country, but primarily is there to let users know if they’ve been in close contact with someone who tests positive for Covid-19.
There are versions for Android and iOS available either directly from those app stores or through the Koronavilkku website. Although the app only offers Finnish and Swedish versions at present, the website is available in Finnish, Swedish and English and has more instructions about how the app works.
Development on the new service began in May and it was tested at a local level with healthcare workers in Tampere and Helsinki during August. Last week the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare THL announced that the app had been evaluated by the Cyber Security Center which didn’t identify any problems that might pose significant risks related to data security.
“The implementation of the application has, according to the evaluation, taken into account protection against several general risks” THL concludes.
There’s an estimate that if just 10% of everyone in Finland downloads the app and lets it run in the background of their smartphone, it would provide a wide coverage area.
“Of course the coronavirus is affecting mostly in the Helsinki area so it’s important for people there who are moving around to have it. In a lot of areas of Finland there is no coronavirus at all, so it is not needed in those places as much” Antti Kivilä from Sitra, who was involved in developing the app, told us during the summer.
How does the new app work?
Once the Koronavilkku app has been downloaded to a mobile device it runs in the background automatically, and THL says it won’t affect phone use, and won’t drain the battery.
However, when you install the app it will prompt you to allow Bluetooth access.
When two people with the Koronavilkku app installed on their phone come within a short distance of each other their phones will generate and then exchange a random code. The phone stores the anonymous information.
If someone tests positive for coronavirus they will get a code to put into the app from healthcare professionals; the app then anonymously alerts other Koronavilkku users who might have been in close proximity about a possible exposure.
The app also has links to more information about testing, and advice on what to do if you think you have some symptoms of coronavirus.