DUBLIN, July 8 (Reuters) - Ireland expects 1 million people to have downloaded a voluntary app to trace contacts of COVID-19 patients within 24 hours of its formal launch, which its health service operator said would make it the most successful launch in the world.
On Tuesday, Ireland became the latest country to launch a phone-tracking app that alerts users if someone they have been in contact with develops COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
By 0700 GMT on Wednesday, 865,000 people had downloaded it, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said.
Crossing 1 million would mean 25% of the population over the age of 15 have signed up for the app, which captures users' movements without further activation and allows the health service to contact them.
"We expect to be at 1 million users of our new Covid Tracker App within 24 hours of our formal launch. By far the most successful launch anywhere in the world," Paul Reid, the head of Ireland's Health Service Executive (HSE), said on Twitter.
Ireland has had a manual contact tracing programme in place since the end of February and says the app will cut the time it takes to trace close contacts "from days to hours", as well as helping to identify close contacts who are not known to each other.
Research conducted for the health service showed that 82% of respondents were willing to install the app, which adopts a decentralised model where the data is held on the person's mobile phone and not centrally by the government.
Ireland currently has one of the lowest infection rates in Europe, with just three infections per 100,000 people during the past two weeks. So far, 1,720 people have died from the disease, a number that has also slowed sharply in recent weeks. (Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Alex Richardson)
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