AP Interview: French minister confident in virus tracing app

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French Digital Affairs junior minister Cedric O demonstrates how to use the French app StopCovid meant to trace the virus' future spread on during an interview with the Associated Press in Paris, Friday, May 29, 2020. . France is the first major democracy to roll out such an app, and many people fear it invades their privacy. (AP Photo/Masha Macpherson)

PARIS – As France is easing most virus-related restrictions next week, the French government is confident its contact-tracing app will be effective in the process to contain the spread of the pandemic, despite skepticism and worries about privacy.

The man at the forefront of the French app, junior minister for digital economy Cedric O told The Associated Press on Friday, “it is not a miracle solution, but it is useful and necessary.”

The StopCovid app is set to be available to the public on June 2, when the country starts reopening its restaurants and cafes together with monuments and museums, theaters, gyms and public swimming pools. It will make France the first major world democracy to roll out such a tracing app.

Holding his phone with the app opened, O said: “Imagine we’re sitting next to each other or face to face - we don’t know each other. Or we pass each other in the metro. Both our phones will keep a trace of that contact."

People tested positive to the virus will be able to send a quick notification in the app to warn people they were in close contact with, allowing them to call a doctor and get a test.

Like other countries, France sees the app as an additional measure to contain the spread of the coronavirus that comes in addition to manual contact tracing, which involves workers interviewing people who test positive for the virus.

O said the app has been tested for two weeks and the government is confident that the data are protected.

“The installation of the app is on a voluntary basis only: no one can force you to install it. It’s anonymous: no one has access to the data. Neither you, nor the state or others," he insisted.