More than 60,000 people have downloaded the COVID-19 contact-tracing app, Superintendent of Health Charmaine Gauci said on Friday.

Addressing her weekly COVID-19 update, Gauci said 43,334 Android users have downloaded the app, with an additional 16,394 downloading it on their Apple devices.

She praised the fact that a record number of 30,410 people used the health website to check for their swab results.

Reminding the public of the importance of social distancing and mask-wearing, Gauci emphasised that further public cooperation through the use of the app is just as important.

“We have already had six people who were positive and who had downloaded the app. We expect more people to download the app. The more people download this, the more effective it is,” she added.

Launched on September 18 by Health Minister Chris Fearne, ‘COVID Alert Malta’ uses mobile devices’ bluetooth system for contact-tracing but does not collect any information about the user. 

Gauci stymied fears of government surveillance through the app, pointing out that the app does not name users who log as positive and it does not track movements or other unnecessary user data.

She explained how the app is designed to send out an anonymous alert to others who have been in the vicinity of someone who tested positive to let them know of possible exposure. It will then inform users of how to proceed, ideally by quarantining and making arrangements to get tested.

“I have the app. I was one of the first to test it out. I believe in the app and the technology behind it. People may not always recall who they met or for how long, so thanks to this app, we can keep track of even more contacts,” the superintendent added.

In the weeks preceding its launch, the authorities were struggling with timely contact tracing following an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases, and there had also been issues with contact tracers facing abuse from patients who tested positive for the virus.

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