Senate approves corona app, national introduction on Saturday

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A large majority of the Senate on Tuesday approved the introduction of the corona app. 51 senators approved the law that must ensure that a nationwide rollout of the CoronaMelder runs smoothly. Nineteen members voted against. After the vote, Minister Hugo de Jonge (Public Health) announced that the app will be introduced nationally on October 10.

Minister assures that he has kept an eye on privacy sensitivities

“We must do everything in our power to stop the spread of the virus. The app can play an important role in this, and it is high time to start using it in the Netherlands,” said De Jonge after the vote.

While a majority of the Senate is in favor of the app, it has also been criticized. Various parties have reservations about the law on Monday and Tuesday during the legislative procedure. The biggest concerns are the possibilities to get tested after a notification from the app.

The app must ensure that users of the CoronaMelder who have been in the vicinity of a positively tested person for 15 minutes or more, receive a notification on their phone. Because the Netherlands is dealing with a faltering test system and staff shortages at the GGDs, it is not the intention that users who receive a report are tested. Also for app users, the advice remains to only test in case of complaints.

According to several senate groups, not being able to test after a report would reduce support for the app. D66, CDA, PvdA, GroenLinks and SP, among others, prefer to see that everyone can be tested after a notification. Minister De Jonge would also prefer this, but this is not possible due to the shortages. The cabinet is working on scaling up the testing and tracing capacity and the development of rapid tests can eventually solve the Dutch testing problem.

At the same time, the purpose of the app remains intact, De Jonge assured. The CoronaMelder serves as support for the source and contact investigation and warns that you have been in the vicinity of an infected person. “It is a tool, not a panacea,” said De Jonge. It is a possibility that people will subsequently be in home quarantine while they are not infected, but that is already the case with the current source and contact research.

The minister assured that the ministry kept an eye on privacy sensitivities during the development of the app and will continue to do so after the national rollout. De Jonge calls on critics to follow the app closely and praises so-called bug bounty’s out for sleuths who debug the app. The form of the reward is not yet known.

De Jonge also emphasized in the Senate that trust is central. After the heavily criticized appathon, in which several teams were allowed to present their own corona app, the ministry therefore decided to have the app built by its own team. The minister also pointed out that no one can be forced to install the CoronaMelder. Even a question from an employer to an employee whether he has the app goes too far as far as De Jonge is concerned. “Force and coercion are forbidden.”

If the cabinet wants to make the app mandatory, it cannot do so on the basis of the law that was passed on Tuesday. De Jonge said that this requires a legislative change, which would mean that the House of Representatives and the Senate would have to consider it again. If it were up to De Jonge, that will not happen. “Mandating things from the government is counterproductive in the Netherlands.”

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