Give the coronavirus app bonus benefits to increase downloads, German state says

FILE PHOTO: Timotheus Hoettges, Chief Executive Officer of Germany's telecommunications giant Deutsche Telekom AG, holds a mobile phone as he attends the presentation of the new contact-tracing smartphone app that will use Bluetooth short-range radio and technology standards from Apple and Google to alert people of the risk of infection with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Berlin, Germany, June 16, 2020. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke/Pool

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's coronavirus tracing app needs to be made more compelling for users by offering fast-track entry to venues and queue jumping for events, according to a proposal by the government of Germany's most populous state.

The proposal, which also envisages the app storing location data, highlights the authorities' concern at the spread of the pandemic outstripping their ability to track it.

Like its many counterparts around the world, the app anonymously records near encounters with other people's smartphones, meaning people who have been in contact with someone subsequently tested positive can quickly be alerted to take a test or self-quarantine.

Since launching in June, it has been downloaded more than 22 million times, meaning it is used by just over a quarter of Germany's 83 million people. Further installations should make it more effective.

The draft was submitted by the Netherlands-sized state of North Rhine-Westphalia to Germany's federal government as part of a range of proposals aimed at improving the app's effectiveness.

Many in privacy-conscious Germany are wary of the app, with critics warning that it could become effectively compulsory if shops and restaurants insisted on seeing it for entry, while some regard the storing of location data to establish where contacts took place and trace infection chains as intrusive.

By offering incentives, NRW aims to reverse that logic in the hope that more people can be encouraged to install it.

State and federal leaders are due to confer on Wednesday about extending for another three weeks lockdown measures that were imposed at the beginning of November in the hope of containing surging coronavirus case numbers.

The NRW proposals on the Corona Warn-App - and any others put forward by other regions - will also be discussed by the federal government and the other states.

(Reporting by Andreas Rinke; Writing by Thomas Escrit; Editing by Alison Williams)

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