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Cyprus backs voluntary tracking app use to halt virus spread

NICOSIA

The government of Cyprus is encouraging the voluntary use of a locally developed cellphone application designed to locate people who may have come into contact with someone carrying the coronavirus.

The country's Deputy Ministry of Research, Innovation and Digital Policy said Saturday that the COVTRACER app, developed in partnership with a government-funded research center, uses GPS information to track an individual's daily movements.

That information gets stored in the mobile phone’s log file and would be available for users who test positive for the virus to share with public health authorities. The authorities would then use the data to trace anyone who who may have been in close proximity to the infected person.

The ministry said use of the app is “strictly voluntary” and only cellphone owners can make the data available to health authorities.

Another mobile tracing app based on Bluetooth technology was shelved due to privacy concerns.

The government ministry said Cyprus backs a coordinated European approach to tracing apps that might help with the management of COVID-19 across the continent and speed up border openings as travel restrictions are lifted.

A stay-at-home order in Cyprus is set to ease Monday, when retail stores will be allowed to reopen. A nighttime curfew will remain in place until restrictions on movement are completely lifted, a move scheduled for May 21.

Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said this week that flights to and from the island nation would resume after June 9, depending on how the pandemic unfolds.

To date, Cyprus has 857 confirmed coronavirus cases, including 15 deaths.