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Corona app – a silver bullet?

Wednesday, 13 May 2020
This is an opinion article by an external contributor. The views belong to the writer.

During this current “corona-chapter” in European history, we often come across the term ‘Silver bullet.’ It is especially used to promote a ‘corona app’, that is supposedly able to interrupt chains of infection better than any other tool.

Voila! That sounds too good to be true! Moreover, it is! For several reasons, I feel the need to hit the brakes. Not because I am opposed to digital solutions. However, as nurse and a Conservative, I consider both good hand hygiene and the protection of privacy to be essentials for a healthy and happy life.

What exactly is a ‘Silver bullet’? Initially, it is a word used in fairy tales for that special bullet, able to defeat werewolves, witches and monsters. However, the definition of the silver bullet in a fairy tale just cannot fulfil its purpose. In every spiritual adventure, only true love or common sense pervade. Preferably both, if it is a good one. It is never the silver bullet. So when the corona app ‘hang-arounds’ – not to sound too enthusiastic – say, that the app is not a silver bullet, indeed they are shooting themselves in the foot.

In my country, Denmark, the government thought it was easy to have a ‘corona app’ created. But GDPR etc. is – thank you – not easy to bypass although the app can only work, if everybody uses it and the authorities are allowed to collect and use data. Which, of course, they shouldn’t be – unless you like the idea of a surveillance state.

The Danish reasoning is not unique. Among others, Germany has also made similar attempts to create an app. Albeit, it has now passed the ball to the EU, where supporters can be found both among many of my colleagues in the European Parliament and in the Commission. Some even advocate that the app is the only key to unlock the Single Market to its full potential again and for Europeans to spend the coming summer in other EU member states.

The re-opening of the Single Market, and especially the tourism sector, with all the jobs it constitutes, is obviously of high importance. Currently, we all know families who are on the verge of losing their livelihoods because the tourism industry is suffering. But claiming that an app is the crucial solution, is a big silver bullet.

We are fortunately living in a part of the world where individual freedom and privacy are inviolable and where data protection laws are guarding personal information from being used without clear consent. Moreover, no one can force citizens to use specific apps nor to buy and use a smart phone.

Furthermore, an app will only work if fed with the whole truth. As one of my witty colleagues put it, “I maybe want to use an app, but I don’t want it to know when I’m with my lover!” Again – the sound of a silver bullet.

Let us spend taxpayer’s money on what works: Hygiene, regular hand washing and disinfectants, along with verified information on signs of infection, protective gear, tests, and research on vaccines and medicine for the people infected. Furthermore, we need to get member states to measure the infection pressure, to provide comparable data to guide the reopening of our boarders and sectors.

Redesign the idea of an EU corona app to an information app, packed with valid and comparable data on the current infection status of all countries. This should include both national and global precautions. Information should be available in all EU languages and, as far as I am concerned, the app could be equipped with an alarm setting to remember certain precautious routines.

Only common sense without silver bullets – along with financial aid packages etc. – can save the single market and the upcoming summer holidays.

Pernille Weiss