If you have a Czech phone number, chances are you have recently received an unusual text message written in Czech. Maybe you didn’t understand what it said and decided to brush it off as yet another spam. While some may still consider it spam, it was actually a message from the Czech Ministry of Health regarding a coronavirus precaution. So what was it about?
Why Did You Receive the Message?
As the number of new coronavirus cases is increasing rapidly, the risk of getting infected is growing as well. With more infected people, more people need professional medical care, which means that capacities of Czech hospitals could soon be filled and medical personnel overburdened. In order to avoid this, the Ministry of Health of the Czech Republic has decided to act. For this reason, you have probably already received a text message from the ministry via which you are being asked to instal the eRouška app.
What Is the App For and How Does It Work?
This app is available for Android and iOS and its purpose is to track people infected with coronavirus and find everyone they’ve encountered. These people will then receive a simple anonymous notification about meeting an infected person.
For a better explanation, let’s say that you have been recently tested for the coronavirus and the result has come back positive. If you have the eRouška app installed on your smartphone, the Public Health Office will send you a unique sms code which will allow you to use this app to warn the people you could have possibly infected. That doesn’t mean every single person you’ve met and has the app will be notified – this warning will be only sent to those who have been in contact with you for at least 15 minutes at a distance of 2 metres and less. For example, someone who was travelling on a bus with you.
Your identity won’t be revealed. The only thing that these people will know is that they have encountered a person infected with the coronavirus and the date when it happened. They won’t have to get tested for the virus, nor they’ll have to self-quarantine – it’s simply for them to know they may have been infected and should be thus observant of possible symptoms. Whether they decide to take some precautions to avoid spreading the disease is completely up to them.
So how does the eRouška app know who could be at risk of contracting the virus? The app uses Bluetooth to keep track of every person you meet. If you encounter another person who has the app installed on their smartphone, the data will be saved automatically so it can be later used for tracking if needed. Because of that, the app won’t know your exact location and neither will you be able to find out where you could have met an infected person, should such an encounter happen.
The app also contains directions on how to proceed in case you’re infected, important contacts and a lot of relevant information, such as the current number of infected people.
Accuracy of this app can be affected by many factors – state of your smartphone, state of your battery and so on. You could even receive a notification about meeting an infected person if you didn’t leave your house or apartment on that day you were supposed to encounter an infected person according to the app. How is that possible, you’re asking? Well, the app can’t see walls and other physical barriers so it’s possible that this person only briefly passed by your apartment or house and the signal was so strong that it was detected as a possibly risky encounter. Perhaps it could be even your neighbour who happens to have their bed near the wall you share. Either way, it is always better to be safe than sorry.
Also remember that for this app to work you need to turn on the Bluetooth and leave it on for at least the amount of time you’re not at home. Otherwise, it can, of course, be paused – just don’t forget to turn it back on.
Are There Any Other Apps?
Besides eRouška, there is also a similar app by Mapy.cz which has almost 2 million users as of October 19. Infected people can report about getting infected via a simple form and while both apps work on a similar principle, there is one major difference: The eRouška app only collects data about meeting other users, the app by Mapy.cz collects data about your location. This can give more accurate results but, of course, not everyone wants to let others know where they have been as it’s personal information.
Let us know and get your residence permit as soon as possible to be safe in the future in case the pandemic indeed returns in full force. Having a residence permit is the best way of making sure you’ll be able to return to the Czech Republic even if the borders are closed again.