What you need to know about technical error with Denmark’s Smittestop Covid-19 app

A technical issue has been detected with the Smittestop app used to help trace Covid-19 in Denmark.

What you need to know about technical error with Denmark’s Smittestop Covid-19 app
Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

The technical problem may have caused certain users not to be notified they have been close to a person infected with coronavirus, when in fact this was the case.

It is currently unknown whether the issue has been present since the app was launched in June, according to DR.

Newspaper Politiken has reported that Copenhagen city councillor Pia Allerslev found that her family did not receive warnings from the app even though she tested positive for Covid-19 and had been close to them for over 15 minutes, the requirement for the notification.

Similar situations have subsequently been reported in other media in Denmark.

“We have recently tested the app to recreate the situation and appear to have found a possible cause for (the error),” Lene Ærbo, the technical leader of the app for the Danish health ministry, told DR.

Technical staff are working to confirm the error before releasing an update, according to the broadcaster’s report.

“We can see that in some cases, where mobile phones are together for a longer period, for example people who live together, close contacts don’t get a (possible) infection notification,” Ærbo said.

She added that because Google and Apple, who developed the Danish app, update it on an ongoing basis, it was not currently possible to say whether the error has always existed.

The Smittestop app is regarded as a supplement to manual contact tracing in Denmark, which is conducted by the Danish Patient Safety Authority (Styrelsen for Patientsikkerhed).

One of its key intended functions is to identify infection chains between people who do not know each other.

Ærbo said to DR that the technical problem is limited to very close contacts – such as people in the same household – and not those for which contact had a relatively short duration.

“We can see that infection notifications are sent out for short-lived contacts. That is typically unknown contacts, so this is positive,” she said.

“But there have been challenges with household contacts and we are testing and working to improve this as soon as possible,” she added.

According to Ministry of Health figures reported by DR, 2,266 people registered their positive coronavirus test on the app between its launch and September 21st. The app has been downloaded 1,393,967 times.

App users who experience problems are advised to contact support on telephone number 44222080.

READ ALSO: Which European countries' coronavirus phone apps have had the most success?

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IN NUMBERS: Has the Omicron Covid-19 wave peaked in Denmark?

The number of new Covid-19 infections fell on Saturday for the second day in a row, following a three-day plateau at the start of last week. Has the omicron wave peaked?

IN NUMBERS: Has the Omicron Covid-19 wave peaked in Denmark?
Graffiti in the Copenhagen hippy enclave of Christiania complaining of Omicron's impact on Christmas. Photo: Philip Davali/Scanpix

How many cases, hospitalisations and deaths are there in Denmark? 

Denmark registered 12,588 new cases in the 24 hours leading up to 2pm on Saturday, down from the 18,261 registered on in the day leading up to Friday at 2pm, which was itself a decline from the record 28,283 cases recorded on Wednesday. 

The cases were identified by a total of 174,517 PCR tests, bringing the positive percentage to 7.21 percent, down from the sky high rates of close to 12 percent seen in the first few days of January. 

The number of cases over the past seven days is lower than the week before in almost every municipality in Denmark, with only Vallensbæk, Aarhus, Holseterbro, Skanderborg, Hjørring, Vordingborg,  Ringkøbing, Kolding, Assens, Horsens, Thisted, and Langeland reporting rises. 

Hospitalisations have also started to fall, with some 730 patients being treated for Covid-10 on Saturday, down from 755 on Friday. On Tuesday, 794 were being treated for Covid-19 in Danish hospitals, the highest number since the peak of the 2020-21 winter wave.

The only marker which has not yet started to fall is the number of deaths, which tends to trail infections and hospitalisations. 

In the 24 hours leading up to 2pm on Saturday, Denmark registered 28 deaths with Covid-19, the highest daily number recorded since 20 January 2021, when 29 people died with Covid-19 (although Denmark’s deadliest day was the 19 January 2021, when 39 people died). 

How does Denmark compare to other countries in Europe? 

Over the last seven days, Denmark has had the highest Covid-19 case rate of any country in Europe bar Ireland. The number of new infections in the country has climbed steadily since the start of December, apart from a brief fall over Christmas. 

So does this mean the omicron wave has peaked? 

Maybe, although experts are not sure. 

“Of course, you can hope for that, but I’m not sure that is the case,” said Christian Wejse, head of the Department for Infectious Diseases at Aarhus University Hospital. “I think it is too early to conclude that the epidemic has peaked.”

He said that patients with the Omicron variant were being discharged more rapidly on average than had been the case with those who had the more dangerous Delta variant. 

“Many admissions are relatively short-lived, thankfully. This is because many do not become that il, and are largely hospitalized because they are suffering with something else. And if they are stable and do not need oxygen, then they are quickly discharged again.” 

Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said during a visit to an event held by the Social Liberal party that the latest numbers made her even more optimistic about the coming month. 

“We have lower infection numbers and the number of hospitalisations is also plateauing,” she said. “I think we’re going to get through this winter pretty well, even if it will be a difficult time for a lot of people, and we are beginning to see the spring ahead of us, so I’m actually very optimistic.” 

She said that she had been encouraged by the fact that Omicron was a “visibly less dangerous variant if it is not allowed to explode.”