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Legislative proposal for a mobile application for effectively breaking chains of COVID-19 transmission moves forward

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health 11.6.2020 14.04 | Published in English on 12.6.2020 at 11.22
Press release 148/2020

The Government proposes amendments to the Communicable Diseases Act that enable the development of an information system for contacting people who may have been exposed to coronavirus (COVID-19). The information system would consist of a mobile application and a back-end system with the goal of supporting the management of the coronavirus epidemic.

In managing the coronavirus epidemic, Finland has gradually moved from extensive restrictions to more targeted measures in accordance with the guidelines of Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s Government. Tracing those exposed to the virus quickly and effectively plays a key role when we want to loosen restrictive measures. The aim is to enhance the Government’s ‘test, trace, isolate and treat’ approach by introducing a mobile application that is voluntary and ensures data protection.

Information on potential exposures and instructions on how to break transmission chains quickly

With the mobile application, people could help prevent the spread of coronavirus and protect their own health and that of their loved ones. The use of the mobile application would be voluntary and free.

The application could also be used to alert people who have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus but who does not know or remember meeting them. With the application, people could send this information on their potential exposure to the healthcare service and quickly receive information on what to do next. In addition, they could monitor their symptoms and avoid doing things that might spread the virus. Those using the application would not receive any information about people with confirmed coronavirus or the date on which they were potentially exposed to the virus.

People exposed to coronavirus would be contacted and referred to treatment more effectively

A mobile application available for all would support the operation of healthcare services and help break the chains of COVID-19 transmission. The information system could make it faster to contact those exposed and refer them to testing and treatment on the basis of an assessment made by a healthcare professional. The mobile application would also make it possible to share reliable health information and instructions.

Once operating effectively, the information system would be part of a larger package designed to monitor people’s exposure to coronavirus and trace infections. This proposed information system would not, however, be enough to respond to the needs for tracing and breaking the chains of transmission. It would not replace but run in parallel to the current work done by healthcare units to contact those exposed. It would allow us to gain more comprehensive information on people who may have been exposed to the virus.

Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare to assume responsibility for development of information system

Under the Communicable Diseases Act, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare is the national expert institution for combating communicable diseases. According to the government proposal, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare would assume a temporary duty to provide an information system based on mobile technology. The Social Insurance Institution of Finland would maintain the back-end system related to this information system. The National Cyber Security Centre, which operates within the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency, would assess the data security of the information system. 

According to the proposal, provisions would also be introduced on the processing and protection of personal data when using the system. 

The objective is that the proposed act would enter into force on 31 August 2020 at the latest and would remain in force until 31 March 2021. 

Inquiries

Outi Äyräs-Blumberg, Senior Specialist, [email protected]

Päivi Salo, General Secretary, [email protected]

Minna Saario, Director, [email protected]

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